There are few cities that take sandwiches more seriously than New York and Paris. Each boasts several signature creations that have become staples around the globe.
Alexis Gabriel Aïnouz tries to the bridge the gap between the two cosmopolitan capitals in his new book, Just a French Guy Cooking: Easy Recipes and Kitchen Hacks for Rookies, by including two takes on the simple tartine A.K.A. the open-faced sandwich.
The Big Apple versions features cream cheese, tomatoes, lox, capers and red onions; a standard combination found in countless bagel stores, diners and home kitchens around the five boroughs. The Parisian version features pickled asparagus, salted butter, thinly sliced ham and radishes; items that are on countless menus around the City of Lights.
But Aïnouz admits “French cuisine sometimes suffers from the view that it is a bit old-fashioned, snobbish and even up itself (or, as we say over here, ‘coincé du cul,’ if you’ll pardon my French),” he writes in his book. “To me, this image needs shaking up when it comes to easy, fun dishes such as tartines, which are open sandwiches and a bit like pizza–right?”
I suggest you make both styles of tartine and travel the world without leaving your brunch table.
For the NYC
- 2 large slices Sourdough bread
- 2–3 Tbsp Cream cheese
- 1 large Tomato, diced
- 2–3 slices of Lox*
- 1 tsp Capers
- 2 or 3 Very thin rings of red onion
For the Paris
- 2 large slices Sourdough bread
- 2–3 Green asparagus spears
- 2 Tbsp White wine vinegar
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 1 large Garlic clove
- lightly Salted butter
- 1–2 slices Good-quality cooked ham
- 2 Red-skinned radishes
- fresh Chervil leaves (or use parsley, tarragon, thyme)
- Start by toasting or grilling [broiling] the sourdough but only do this lightly as the idea is not to crisp it up like a rusk but rather to prevent it absorbing moisture from the toppings. At the same time, slightly scorched patches are good. I know, I’m making things complicated, but bread is in my DNA.
- For the NYC, spread the toasted bread generously with cream cheese and then top with alternate layers of tomato and lox. Sprinkle over the capers and finally add red onion rings.
- For the Paris, shave the asparagus spears into thin ribbons using a speed swivel peeler and place them in a bowl with the vinegar, sugar and a pinch of salt. Set aside to ‘pickle’ while you get on with the rest of the recipe.
- Slice the radishes into rounds.
- Cut the garlic clove in half, rub the cut sides over the toast and then spread with a thin layer of butter. If you don’t have lightly salted butter, unsalted will do the job but sprinkle it with sea or kosher salt flakes.
- Ask your butcher or delicatessen to slice your ham very thinly and arrange the slices on the bread so they look like waves (this will add volume).
- Drain the asparagus and place on top of the ham with the radishes. Finally, sprinkle with your fresh herbs. Cut the tartine into 3 with a bread knife and serve.
*NOTE: Lox is salmon that has been cured and then cold-smoked and is very popular in the US–particularly as a topping for bagels with cream cheese. You can use smoked salmon equally well but go for fatty slices with white stripes running through them.
Recipe excerpted with permission from Just a French Guy Cooking by Alexis Gabriel Aïnouz, published by Quadrille September 2018, RRP $19.99 hardcover.