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.