Sandwich Party 3: Belgian Baguette Bonanza

Can it be that time again already? Sandwich Party 3 is here and, as ever, I couldn’t bear to be left out.

First time around I paid homage to my homeland with a chip butty from  the UK. Last year I eulogised the culinary heritage of my wife’s country, Italy. This year I felt it only appropriate to take as my theme the country in which I have chosen to settle and raise my family: the Kingdom of Belgium. A split sandwich to represent both language communities. Yes, you’ve had Belgium explained with toys, now it’s time for Belgium symbolised by a pair of ill-matched sandwiches. To add yet another layer of intellectual stimulation (this isn’t just a sandwich, it’s a thesis) I have decided to make one sandwich I definitely like, and one I’m not sure if I’ll like or not, so as to symbolise the ambivalence of the expat towards his adopted home. 

Firstly, the bread: a baguette à l’ancienne from our local branch of Le Pain Quotidien.

Filling number one: “Américain” is a variation on steak tartare (raw meat, raw eggs, worcester sauce, etc. Ingredients can be seen here). I have been unable to establish exactly why it’s called “américain” here in Belgium. From what I’ve read, most Americans wouldn’t even consider eating it themselves, let alone exporting it as a recipe to Europe. Anyway, it comes ready made in many supermarkets and delicatessens under the name “préparé” (“prepared”), which is my favourite type of food – someone else has done the hard work for me. All I needed to do was open and smear.

Well, it wasn’t too bad, although it wasn’t exactly bursting with flavour. I don’t find either the idea or the reality of it disgusting, as many do, but I’m also a little puzzled as to why it’s quite so popular over here.

For the other half of my baguette I went with an old favourite: brie. A version I’ve had in Brussels sandwich shops has it drizzled with Belgian sirop de Liège, but I didn’t have any of that at home, so I improvised by adding slices of apple and in fact the sharpness and acidity of the apple contrasted well with the creaminess of the brie. A sprinkling of walnut on top added crunch. A very successful sandwich, I feel.

To wash it all down I chose a bottle of Grimbergen Gold.

So  there you have it – even the stuff I thought I wouldn’t like turned out to have its own (albeit limited) appeal. There’s a lesson in there, I think.

Bonus recipes! In the course of my research, Gert, Our Man In Antwerp, suggested the following, in case you want to try some alternative Belgian sarnies:

“A very traditional one: “smos” from the Antwerp word “smossen” which means to spill: mayo, lettuce, egg , tomato, gherkin or cucumber, cheese and/or ham.
A special one: “tonijntino”: Tuna and mayonnaise, mustard, Tabasco , anchovies, tomato, gherkin”

By the way, I go on holiday on Saturday afternoon, so I won’t be able to react to comments or check out the other sandwiches after that (unless the weather’s awful and the hotel has a free internet connection) for another couple of weeks. But I’m looking forward to seeing what others come up with, and please feel free to join in even if you haven’t done so before.

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18 thoughts on “Sandwich Party 3: Belgian Baguette Bonanza

  1. Di April 3, 2009 / 8:31 am

    A bow to you … you ate the raw stuff!

    Travel safe and enjoy that holiday. It suspect it will be magic.

    Like

  2. paola April 3, 2009 / 9:25 am

    I LOVE Américain… I don’t know why, probably just one of those acquired taste..
    That’s one of the things I miss having in my condition 😉

    Like

  3. Norm April 3, 2009 / 11:54 am

    Simes

    As always you inspire me to great things, so I’m off to the shops to get myself some bread and a selection of fillings in the hope that I can emulate your sandwich greatness. I’ll send you a pic 😉

    N

    Like

    • simonlitton April 3, 2009 / 12:19 pm

      Post the pic on your blog, Norm. Join in the Internetty Sarnie Fun!

      Like

      • Norm April 3, 2009 / 2:19 pm

        I can’t promise a work of art, merely bread-based satisfaction. Woah yeah…

        Like

      • Norm April 3, 2009 / 2:20 pm

        Oh and by the way Grimbergen, GREAT choice sir! 🙂

        Like

  4. Andrea April 3, 2009 / 3:09 pm

    Hooray! The brie sandwich looks fantastic, especially with the accompanying drink.

    Like

  5. V-Grrrl April 3, 2009 / 3:16 pm

    Brie and apple–well done!

    I still remember our first trip to Belgium, in 1986, staying with Eric’s family in Eghezee. I was in the kitchen with his aunt, who did not speak English, and she was preparing “filet Americain.” I watched the raw meat, the egg, the seasonings. I thought she was making American meatloaf. When she added a parsley garnish to the plate, I was shocked. It wasn’t going to be cooked! GAH! But I was a good guest and ate some…she served it with homemade mayonnaise and frites. I have never eaten it since and it still makes me cringe!

    Like

  6. AMcLn April 3, 2009 / 5:04 pm

    No mosselens?? I thought that’s all they eat there. That’s all I ate there.

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  7. Elsa April 3, 2009 / 8:33 pm

    A marvelously balanced Sandwich Party entry, Simon! Thanks for starting us out with style!

    Like

  8. gwen April 3, 2009 / 11:54 pm

    Smaakelijk! That last photo makes me miss the Lowlands like nothin’ else.

    I may have to replicate that sandwich soon. Including the beer.

    Like

  9. J April 10, 2009 / 5:15 am

    Mmmm. That brie apple walnut thing sounds awesome. Maybe nice with pear, too.

    Like

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