Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Marvelous Ham Sandwich with Cornichons

Sometimes a sandwich can be a memory.

When I was at Georgetown, I worked at a student-run convenience store named Vital Vittles. We sold sandwiches that were brought in by a local bistro/catering company called Marvelous Market. One of those sandwiches - ham with butter and cornichons on French bread - was my favorite sandwich ever. The problem was that it cost $7 (a huge sum for a lunch, from my perspective). I think the first time I had the sandwich was when it was left over from a previous day and marked down to half price. The bread was a bit soggy, but it was delicious. After that, I found a way to splurge on the sandwich now and then. I could not resist its siren call.

What's so great about it? Butter and ham together initially sounded like overkill to me. I mean, ham's a fatty meat to begin with. But the creaminess of the butter against the smooth, rich slices of ham is delightful. Add to that freshly made French bread with a crispy crust but light, fluffy-soft interior. And top it off with tiny cornichons - French pickles that are extremely tart, acidic and addictive. I found the combination irresistible. I still, do, really.

I remember trying to recreate this sandwich a few years ago. I found mini gherkin pickles in the supermarket and thought I had rediscovered the cornichon. But no - while mini gherkins are tasty, they simply do not compare. The flavor and the tartness were not the same. The ham with butter was still delightful, but it lacked dimension. I gave up on my sandwich.

But two weeks ago, while browsing the cheeses at Whole Foods, I came upon a plastic container labeled "cornichons." I immediately searched out some ham and a nice baguette and went home to celebrate. Finally, after seven years, I had done it. I had recovered the lost sandwich. I've had it four times since then. And if you can find yourself some cornichons (try Whole Foods!), you can have it too!

Marvelous Ham Sandwich with Cornichons

French bread (I used half of a mini-baguette - a quarter of a large one would probably do)
2-4 slices ham (don't overload it - you're going for a balance of flavors)
4-6 cornichons (accept no substitutes!)
unsalted butter (salted butter would ruin it - you want something cool and creamy - whipped butter would be easiest to spread, if you have it)

Slice your baguette in half and butter the top. Lay slices of ham on the bottom half. Spread your cornichons on top - try to ensure you'll get some in every bite. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. I ate a similar sandwich on a baguette in Paris years ago ... remember also thinking: butter AND ham? thanks for bringing back a deliciious memory!