Le Jambon Beurre. A Myth, A Reality
I'd like to say that the first thing I do when I land in France is to run into my beloveds' arms in full embrace crying Oh how I've missed you. But really, I run to Paul (the deli) and make sweet sweet mouth love to a ham-butter-baguette sandwich.
I've strayed, have had love affairs with different types of sandwiches filled to the brim with goodies. Some were even warm and toasty, cheese spewing from their edges like lava. I'll never forget them and always will think of them fondly.
But nothing will replace my first love, the ham-butter-baguette sandwich.
Le jambon-beurre is a national love affair and a staple in France. As of 2014, the French were buying close to 1.3 billion ham-butter sandwiches every year. That's billion. With a -b.
The taste and texture are so incredibly addictive. Here is why:
You lay down slices of salty French ham on a generous coat of butter. There is something so perverted yet so delicious about coupling meat of pig with cream of cow. Fat and salt - a winning combo always - are then encased into a crisp baguette. Every bite will crunch then melt in your mouth and make your taste buds beg for more.
How to make the perfect jambon-beurre
It is disarmingly simple. The key is in the ingredients. But isn't it always?
Pick a heavenly baguette
Not too cooked else you'll break a tooth. You'll recognize your perfect baguette by its enticing caramel color, but most importantly by the crackle it makes when you squeeze it ever so gently.
It is a known fact: sound is what makes a baguette perfect.
If the baguette goes limp, run. Don't you go using any other kind of bread, sacrilege...
Apply a generous coat of butter
Butter was long considered evil but is redeeming itself. It now seems as though butter is, after all, not so bad for us humans - per some recent studies. I guarantee these studies were conducted by a French person, and maybe even commissioned by France.
We eat butter every day and cook with it on the daily. Yet we have lower incidences of heart disease than the United States. Much lower. Plus we eat cream. And cheese.
70 million people can't be wrong. So here is what you do:
It may come from France (Normandie ideally) or not, but it should say "cultured" or "baratte" somewhere on the packaging. The color should be anywhere from light to a darker yellow and the texture a bit hard. It should not be so easily spread. Nothing comes easy in France; even a simple jambon-beurre should require a bit of work.
Our favorite brands are: Beurre d'Isigny Sainte-Mère, Beurre d'Échiré, Président. Also decent: Kerrygold, Trader Jacques (Trader Joe's) Cultured Salted Butter.
Don't you dare buy margarine or I will find you...
Gently lay down slices of French ham
We say French because the ham should be. Not honey, not smoked, not sweet, and not the plastic-like mess that is too often sold in supermarkets and packaged in some sort of saline solution. Gross.
Some grocery stores in the U.S. carry Madrange French ham, an acceptable option, in their deli. If you're going to do a jambon-beurre, do it right. If all fails, Trader Joe's sells a Rosemary ham that will do just fine.
THIS is what true Parisian ham looks like.
Do nothing else to your sandwich. No greens, no veggies, no mayo, no nothing. A ham-butter is only three ingredients. We're purists over here!
A jambon-beurre is magical. It is poetry. It is a festival for the tongue and mouth. It is a symphony of... gotta run, 11 inches of pure pleasure are waiting for me ciao !
Words: Cécile Charlot.