- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Not long ago, I stopped by a table at Spago to greet some regulars. They were finishing lunch, getting ready to return to San Diego, and one of them had a great idea.

She and her husband were neighbors of Jerry Lewis, the famous comedian, and she said, “Let’s call up Jerry and see if he wants takeout from Wolfgang.” A moment later, Jerry was on her cell phone. She handed it to me.

“I’ll make you anything,” I told him.

“All I want,” said Jerry, “is a simple ham and cheese sandwich.”

His friends were surprised. After all, I could have sent him one of my Chinois chicken salads, or a partially-baked pizza crust ready to finish in the oven and top with dill creme fraiche and my smoked salmon.

But I knew exactly what Jerry meant. Nothing satisfies like a well-made sandwich, and I went all out to give him the best ham and cheese of his life. In the process, I followed some simple rules that you can use to make great sandwiches for school or work lunchboxes.

First, use good quality, freshly-baked bread with some flavor and texture. For Jerry’s sandwich, I used one of those slender, crusty French loaves known as baguettes. Nowadays, you can find them in boutique bakeries and well-stocked supermarkets everywhere.

Then there’s the filling. Always select the best-quality ingredients, be generous with them, and try intriguing combinations. I started with Black Forest ham and cut it into paper-thin slices; the Italian cured ham known as prosciutto is another excellent option. Then, instead of the usual sliced Swiss, I used ripe French Brie, which has a rich, slightly nutty flavor that I thought would go perfectly with the sweet, salty ham.

Next come the condiments, which contribute moisture and flavor just as a sauce does for a fine entree. Since Jerry’s sandwich had some distance to travel, during which the condiments would probably make the bread soggy, I packed Dijon mustard and mayonnaise in separate containers, ready for him to smear on just before eating. You should do the same for your lunchbox condiments, like the honey mustard I include in the following recipe. (If you’re concerned about the raw egg in the recipe, substitute 1 1/3 cup (330 ml) prepared mayonnaise, stirring in the mustard and honey.) Also separately pack any lettuce, tomato, pickles or other moist additions.

Finally, I wrapped the sandwich airtight in plastic wrap and packed it in a sturdy bag with some ice packets to make sure the perishable filling stayed fresh.

A few hours later, I got a call from Jerry Lewis, declaring it the best ham and cheese sandwich he had ever eaten. There’s nothing like biting into a crispy baguette and experiencing the sweetness, tartness and smokiness, all mixed together.

Follow my simple rules, and you’ll probably agree.


Serves 2


2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon honey


1 whole baguette loaf

1/2 pound (250 g) thinly sliced Black Forest ham

6 ounces (185 g) ripe Brie cheese, cut into thin slices or wedges

4 leaves Romaine lettuce, preferably pale yellow inner leaves

Thinly sliced tomato (optional)

Dill pickle chips (optional)

Thinly sliced red onion (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (180 C).

Meanwhile, make the Honey-Mustard Mayonnaise: Put the vinegar, egg, mustard, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the stainless-steel blade or whisk attachment. Turn the machine on and, with the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, continuing to beat the mixture until all of the oil has been added and a good thick mayonnaise has formed. Add the honey and pulse the machine to blend it in. You should have about 1 1/2 cups (375 ml), enough for many sandwiches; use liberally to taste, reserving the rest in a covered container in the refrigerator.

To make the sandwiches: Bake the baguette in the preheated oven until it is good and crisp, about 10 minutes. With a bread knife, cut the baguette crosswise into two equal pieces; then, split each piece horizontally lengthwise in half, taking care not to cut all the way, so that it opens like a book.

Coat the inside surfaces generously with the Honey-Mustard Mayonnaise. Layer the ham, cheese and Romaine inside each baguette half, adding sliced tomato, pickles and onion if you like. Close each sandwich securely and serve.

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