While the sandwich did not originate from France, the French definitely perfected it. How is it that French sandwiches sold at shops manage to remain very delicious?
Today, we’ll dive down into what elements are needed to craft a French sandwich.
At the end of the article, I’ll give an example of a French sandwich you can make in your own home.
Simple Construction, Top Notch Ingredients
When crafting a sandwich, you may be tempted to add more ingredients to try and form more complex flavors.
However, you’ll notice that French sandwiches aren’t a concoction of 20 different complex ingredients.
The secret to a French sandwich is actually simplicity. In this domain, less is more.
The basis of many French sandwiches is rather formulaic: one type of meat, one type of cheese, and one type of “sauce.” Other times, French sandwiches are simply delicious bread combined with high-quality cheese.
Believe it or not, the most popular sandwich in France is the Jambon-Beurre. For those of you who flunked French 2, that’s a ham and butter sandwich.
Ham. And. Butter.
Yet somehow, it’s delicious and affordable. When it comes to picking up a quick meal for cheap, these sandwiches go for two to three euros. If you’re in Paris, expect to pay 4 – 6 Euros.
What a French sandwich lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality of ingredients.
The ham is usually thick-cut and sliced fresh to order. The butter would be sourced from local farms and produced from grass-fed cows.
If you speak any French, you can experience French sandwich-making first hand from this news report:
This tends to be downplayed, but butter is a key way to Frenchify a sandwich.
In the US, we tend to put mayonnaise on sandwiches. It’s not very common to use butter.
In France, butter reigns supreme. And adding butter to your sandwich will enhance the flavor and help occlude your blood vessels.
It’s a win-win.
As the butter rests at room temperature, it remains a soft and creamy addition to help mate the bread to the added ingredients.
Add a Unique French Flair
French sandwiches play off of things which thrive in France. Camembert or Brie cheese, cornichons, maybe even a slathering of quality Dijon mustard… these are all things which hail from France and the French use to add dynamic flavor to a sandwich.
And sometimes the ingredients aren’t inherently unique to France but are made locally.
Consider from Amazon:
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Whether the sandwich is constructed on a baguette, ciabatta bread, or whole wheat slices – the French don’t skimp on the quality of bread. The bread is the foundation for which the rest of the sandwich attempts to live up to.
This is also why boulangeries (French bakeries) tend to make amazing sandwiches – because they fabricate the bread themselves at the crack of dawn that morning. If you ever made a sandwich and it fell flat, I would guess that poor quality bread was the dominant factor to this. If you live in areas outside of France, it’s important to source good bread at either a small bakery, specialty market, or possibly even from your own oven.
Go-To French Sandwich Recipe
Take half of a freshly made baguette. Spread an ample amount of room-temperature butter to spread onto both sides. Meticulously place 4 to 8 ounces of quality, thick-cut ham. Consider adding 2 ounces of Gruyère or Brie.
John Elkhoury, FrenchCrazy Founder
Born in Manhattan, John visits his family in France on a yearly basis. He started studying French in 2004 and holds a university degree in French with a minor in linguistics. Learn more about John →