In July of 2005 my husband went to London for a few weeks. He was doing research for a college art class he would later be teaching. The first day he was there the 7/7 bombings occurred. The bombings targeted public transportation. He was scared. I was wigging out! He spent the rest of the trip going everywhere on foot. He walked and walked and walked. He wore his shoes out, got many blisters, but he was safe. And he saw much more of London that way; the nooks and crannies of the city that you only experience by chance while walking down an alley or stopping to look at graffiti art or noticing the curiosities of passers by.
One of his destinations was the British Museum. While there he got lunch, a sandwich. Then he went back and got the same lunch. He returned a 3rd time just for that sandwich once more. When he came home he was determined to recreate that sandwich. Turns out it’s one of the easiest sandwiches in the world to make (aside maybe from PB&J). It’s just a baguette, lettuce (but it’s got to be the right kind), brie, and cranberry jam. The only tricky thing was figuring out what kind of lettuce they used. He described it to me and after a couple tries we landed on curly endive; it needs a bit of texture and a slight bitterness, which helps offset the tangy sweetness of the jam. We’ve been making this sandwich ever since.
With cherries in season, I wanted to change it up. Nix the jam, use roasted cherries instead and add basil. The flavor combo is lovely. When you bite into it you get the crunch of the baguette and taste the sweet, syrupy cherries; the fresh, peppery anise-like basil; the rich, buttery, pungent brie; and the bitter blanket of lettuce. It’s got serious game. I would take this sandwich on a date.
Last year, my husband returned to London with our son and I in tow. It was peaceful; we took lots of public transportation but also went home with many a blister. We went to the British Museum on a mission. The famed sandwich was not to be found. But that’s OK…when we got home, we made our own.
Pitting cherries doesn’t have to be the pits. I use this pitter and it’s done in a flash! (Tip: be sure to wear a dark shirt because there can be a bit of cherry juice splatter. I also put my hand over the cherry shoot/exit while pressing on the lever)
Syrupy soft roasted cherries – I want to drag my tongue right through the middle of the pan
Smash the cherries into the bread, add basil, lettuce and brie
Cherries, basil, and brie are an excellent combo. For an elegant appetizer: toothpick a roasted cherry, basil leaf and square of brie and drizzle with balsamic syrup
Wrap these in parchment and they’re ready for a picnic. A dry rosé or sparkling wine would be the cherry on top!
Roasted Cherry & Brie Baguette Sandwiches
1 1/2 pounds very ripe cherries, stemmed & pitted
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 lemon wedge (1/4 of a lemon)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place cherries on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar and salt. Roast for 15 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and stir cherries and syrup (this helps to prevent the sugar from burning). Put pan back in the oven for another 5 – 10 minutes, until cherries are very soft – watch cherries so sugar doesn’t burn. Squeeze juice from lemon wedge over cherries and stir. Set aside to cool slightly while you assemble the remaining sandwich ingredients.
2 baguettes, about 18 inches each
roasted cherries (recipe above)
curly endive (or other slightly bitter lettuce such as escarole or arugula)
8 ounces brie
Cut baguettes into thirds or quarters, depending on how many servings you want, then slice lengthwise to create a top and bottom. Spoon cherries on inside of top piece of bread and mash with a fork (you could also do this to the bottom piece). Spoon some of the cherry syrup from the pan on top of cherries if desired. Tear several pieces of basil over cherries. On bottom layer, place lettuce and 3 – 4 slices of brie. Put sandwich sides together. Enjoy!