Paris can be tough. We know, we know – every one of you is rolling your eyes right now. But seriously, for all its beauty and culture and parisness, it is a bit bizarre sometimes – nothing opens at any logical time that we can discern, everything smells like wizz (what is it with dudes peeing in public here?), queues take forever, the weather is melbournian, the food can be as appalling as it is amazing. In fact, the food scene is a curious mix of horrific tourist traps, japanese-chef-dominated gastronomie, french bistronomie and mcdonalds. It takes a while to work your way through and find the right groove but god knows we’ve been trying. In our dedication to doing so, we’ve churned through the elaborate – foie gras stuffed with truffles, mustardy steak tartare, langoustine bisque, a whole baked brie – to the simple and seasonal – shavings of asparagus with chervil and cream, grilled duck hearts, slices of caramelised eggplant smeared with yoghurt and cayenne, and the most beautiful, delicate baby artichoke hearts – served pretty much nude except for a squeeze of lemon.
After three straight weeks of eating out though, we’d gotten to a point where we needed something that was home made, involved fresh vegetables, wasn’t coated in butter, but wasn’t a roast pumpkin, chia seed and quinoa salad with a side of kale. What are we, fourteen year old girls? Cue a big fuck off sandwich stuffed to the brim with market goods – three types of mushroom, two kinds of cheese, two kinds of herb and crispy slices of cured meat. It’s what you make when you want to eat something hearty and delicious but wholesomeish. It’s also what you make when “eating something home made” means you’re going to put your phone on silent, sit on the floor in your underpants like a relapsing alcoholic and devour the whole thing with a beer while watching the big lebowski. NB. you don’t need to dress up for this one.
Side note on charcuterie: if you still think that san daniele is the bees knees, then we have another reason to make you reconsider. Because while you have been eyeing off that sexy branded pig’s leg, you’ve probably been denying yourself the chance to try a whole lot of other, more interesting, cuts and cures – like culatello, for example. Culatello means ‘little butt’ in italian. It’s made from a single specific muscle in the back end of a pig that would probably otherwise have become prosicutto, except that by removing the culatello cut you can no longer cure the whole leg and sell it as prosciutto. Proper old school culatello was stuffed inside a pig bladder and hung to dry for 12 months in some (regionally specific) mouldy caves. These days that raises a few eyebrows with food standards authorities and stuff, so an ‘authentic’ culatello can be pretty hard to come by. Nevertheless, it is well worth getting your hands on some if you can, because the cut itself is more tender and the flavour more intense than even the best prosciuttos, even when it doesn’t have 500 years of cave mould to make it funky.
warning: we got carried away with mushroom photographs. If you are one of those people that shudders internally every time someone pulls out their phone to show you a billion pics of their kid, steel yourself now.
crusty fresh bread
mixed mushrooms (buy more than you think you’ll need as they will shrink a bit. For this we used cepes, wine forest and girolles)
two kinds of cheese (we used a soft raw goats cheese – st marcellin – and a semi hard cheese, cantal entre deux. A crumbly cheddar would go well here, as would a mild melty one like emmental or gruyere)
few slices of culatello or your favourite cured meat sliced thin-thin
handful of roughly chopped parsley
sprig of finely chopped rosemary
truffle oil (optional)
amounts in this recipe are totally flexible
Gently remove any dirt and grit from the mushrooms with a brush (turns out opinel – everyone’s favourite maker of french old man knives – makes a specific mushrooming knife complete with brush). Thinly slice the cepes – or whatever the largest mushroom in your selection is – and fry in a few lugs of olive oil over a low heat with the garlic and the finely chopped rosemary. When everything has softened, remove from the pan and set aside. Add the culatello to the pan and fry until the slices begin to crisp up. Remove and set aside with the cepes. In the same pan, heat a bit more oil if needed and add the rest of the smaller mushrooms and fry for a few minutes until soft. Stir through the chopped parsley and set aside.
Now it’s time to put this beast together. Split the baguette without cutting all the way through. Layer your fillings generously, starting with the larger mushrooms. Then go culatello, cantal (hard/melty cheese), girolles and forest mushrooms (mixed mushrooms), st marcellin (soft gooey cheese). If you’re feeling particularly jamieoliverish, drizzle the whole thing with a bit of truffle oil. And if you actually read that because you needed instructions on how to assemble a sandwich, you may need to speak to someone. Just go make a fucking sandwich.