Eat Like the French Do
I was lucky enough to nab a university exchange to France for a semester towards the end of my Bachelor of Journalism. It was a pivotal moment in my young life because it opened up my eyes to the wonders of simple food done well. This blog would not exist without that awakening, and neither would my, in progress, book. The French are just naturals at simplicity; a perfect roast chicken, crisp salads with perfectly a light dressing, chewy bread, creamy butter.
So it was a pleasure to take time to recreate my favourite sandwich this past weekend: jambon, fromage, crudités, simply: ham, cheese and salad. As I was spreading the creamy butter into the airy holes of my fresh baguette I remembered the boulangerie I would buy these sandwiches from in Lille. It was owned by a sweet, hard-working husband and wife team. I a little shy then (pre-journalist days) and too nervous to be stuck talking to them too long for fear of being stranded on an island of "just enough French to get me this far in the conversation, not enough French to carry me all the way through to telling you my life story".
Anyway, here are the secrets to the sandwich:
- Start with a high quality baguette: Search for one at your city's best bakery - you don't want a white loaf shaped into a log, you want a chewy, yeasty baguette
- Creamy butter - I like the "unsalted" butter from Aldi. I was surprised to find this cheap supermarket has the most creamy-tasting butter but it is simply delicious, it's also reasonably priced and made in Australia
- Prosciutto di Parma thinly sliced, or whatever kind of deli meat you prefer
- Pecorino sliced thinly, or whatever hard cheese you prefer
- A few slices of fresh tomatoes
- A couple of leaves of crisp lettuce
That's it! Also: don't cut the baguette all the way through - just on one long side, be sure to spread the butter at room temperature into the bread's airy holes, and don't overstuff the sandwich.
This transports me to those student days in an instant. What's your Proust-ian meal?
PS - How good is Kitchen Confidential? Anthony Bourdain is badass.