The best thing I ever ate in France was neither pot au feu nor moules frites nor boeuf bourguignon. It was simply a tartine, or what the French call an open-faced sandwich. Even when I’m 80 one day, I will still always remember this darn tartine: it was a large slice of toasted bread covered in a ragout-like tomato piperade sauce full of bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes. The tartine was then topped with crisped ribbons of French ham and a hearty dollop of the fluffliest, cheesiest scrambled eggs. It was the plat du jour one random summer day in Paris at Cafe de France, this restaurant near Place d’Italie in the 13th arrondisement. *ahem* Please excuse me as I try to snap back to reality.
Open-faced sandwiches can be topped with anything from butter and jam to fancy cheeses and ham. Tartines are a recipe-less meal, snack, or appetizer, and in France, they’re very often made with the world-famous pain Poilâne, a wood-fired sourdough country bread marked with a rustic cursive “P.” Poilâne bread takes my breath away. If you don’t have Poilâne bread, don’t panic. Any slice of bread with a large surface area will suffice. To read more about Poilâne bread, check out David Lebovitz’s blog post about the famed bakery.
I’ve made a few tartines to give you an idea of how to dress up a plain ol’ slice of bread and turn it into one amazing meal.
Here are some other suggestions for tartine toppings:
Smoked chicken slices
Tzatziki sauce or hummus
Jams (apricot, fig, apple, etc.)
Follow along below to see my tuna salad tartine and ham and cheese version:
Check out that Poilâne bread. Nom. In the US, you could get away with large slices of CA sourdough bread! For the tuna salad tartine, grab tuna, mayo, cucumbers, and tomatoes. For the ham/cheese tartine, grab ham and cheese (obvi), hummus, and salad (such as arugula, mesclun lettuce mix, spinach, etc.)
Here’s the easiest recipe for a tuna salad: drained canned tuna, mayo, and salt and pepper. Nothin’ else. If you want, add some chopped pickles and shallots. I’m keepin’ it easy.
Mix that all around.
And seriously spread that stuff on your bread slice. You can definitely toast your bread before slathering on the tuna salad.
Nice and neat.
Layer on some perfect crisp slices of cucumber.
Overlap them a little. It looks more jolie — that’s French for “pretty.” 😉
Très, très jolie.
Now layer on some sliced tomatoes. I only had cherry tomatoes, but if you have some heirloom tomatoes, that’d be amazing.
Make sure you can still see all the pretty layers!
And last thing. Tomatoes love salt and pepper. Just sprinkle and grind a little bit of each on top. Voilà. Enjoy immédiatement.
Don’t like tuna? Let’s make a ham and cheese tartine. Spread a hefty layer of hummus on your bread.
Nom nom nom.
Layer on some ham…
And top with delicious cheese slices. I used comté cheese, which is probably the best friggin’ cheese on earth. It tastes a lot like swiss cheese. It’s nutty, a tad bit sweet, and just overall one fine fromage. You can stop now and toast your tartine if you want. Make that cheese all nice and melty and toasty.
Otherwise…. just simply top the tartine with a salad and call it a day.
That’s what I call bruch. Or lunch. Or dinner.
Or, hey! Let’s call it a party. Chop the tartine into small appetizer-sized pieces like this and share it with friends. Otherwise, you can eat the tartine with a fork and knife or with your hands. Seriously…you can do anything you want with tartines.
How to Make Assorted Tartines
Total time: 3 minutes
Cook: 0 min
Prep: 3 min
Large slices of bread
Spread ideas: jams, hummus, mustard, etc.
Meat ideas: sliced ham, tuna salad, sliced chicken, etc.
Cheese ideas: cream cheese, sliced cheese, brie, etc.
Vegetable ideas: sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, lettuce, etc.
Lightly toast sliced bread before arranging open-faced sandwiches, if desired. Otherwise, arrange ingredients on untoasted bread. Start with a thin layer of your spread of choice and layer on meats and cheeses. Toast tartine, if desired, to melt cheese. Arrange vegetables on top of tartine. Chop open-faced sandwich into small appetizer-sized servings. Serve immediately.