Let’s face it. Generic American grocery stores simply can’t do French bread. The utterance of this simple realization led the friend on the phone to tell me to “love it or leave it”. Hey now, I’m not shifting allegiance, just stating a fairly self-obvious fact!
OK, yeah, you can make it. I can make it. But I’m also impatient and have those, you know, OctoMom cravings, so making it doesn’t always work. Wait three hours for my saumon et fromage?! Wait, you say?
So that doesn’t work either, at least not all the time. I, however, have come across a lovely compromise: Treat that baby like it’s kinda par-baked. The trick to getting crusty French bread that’s not dry is keeping the oven humid, and by the looks of these soggy little American loaves, I’m gonna guess they skipped that step. But these pale Team Edward loaves can get a Team Jacob makeover (Did I get that right? All I know of the Twilight.. rivalry.. is based on those little old ladies in the Burger King commercial..) in about ten minutes. Magic.
It’s grossly simple: Place a cast-iron skillet on the bottom rack of the oven and heat it to 400º. Boil about a cup of water. When the oven’s hot, pour the hot water into the skillet, then place your wimpy little loaf about a third higher. Bake for about 5-10 minutes, or until it’s as brown as you like it. Tada!
You are, however, going to gag when I tell you why I had this whole dilemma: ham and butter sandwich.
That’s right, ham and butter. Cold. Like, never melted. I, too, was a skeptic, but then tried a “jambon beurre” at the student diner in Paris and fell in love. I’ve yet to make my own butter (That’s for tomorrow or Friday. Seriously.), but I have some thick sliced ham leftover from my salade parisienne, so I whipped that baby up, for the first time since Paris. Ughhhhh.
I know, I know, butter is evil, but I’m staying on the dark side, thank you very much. And seriously, pass over the “squid-flavored snack” when you’re feeling weird, and make one of these babies. You’ll thank me.
Either way, now that you have nice, lovely bread, there’s a load of Frenchy sandwiches you can make, like smoked salmon and goat cheese; or thin sliced turkey and ham with lettuce, tomato, sliced hard-boiled eggs, and mayonnaise; tuna salad; ham and Swiss…..
One personal sized portion of baguette, crisped up as mentioned above
One thick slice of un-smoked, un-honeyed deli ham. This should not resemble anything you can get at Subway. Tell your deli person a “3”.
1. Take out your butter and put it on the counter!
2. To crisp up sad, pale bread, place cast-iron skillet on bottom rack of the oven and preheat to 400º F. Boil a cup of water. When the oven is at 400, pour the hot water into the skillet and place bread a third above. Bake for 5-10 minutes or until your preferred color goooolden brown.
3. When bread is cool and butter is workably soft, slice baguette almost entirely in half lengthwise. You know, Subway style. Smear lots of butter on the bottom half and situate the ham on top.
4. Enjoy with a glass of wine. Unless you’re on your way to grammar class, as I usually was when eating this. Then it was me trying to twist my mouth to say “bouteille d’eau”, which is something like.. “boo-ta-yuuhh-doe”. Ugh, stop laughing at me, Frenchy in line behind me! I’ll blog about you one day! I will!
Very complicated. But the butter must be on the bottom. It just must! Or, well, that’s at least always how I’ve had it.
…but it must!