If you had asked me what a tartine was before my recent trip to London, I might have guessed and told you it is a small fancy tart or if my imagination was working overtime a bit, I might have even told you that it is a rather sour-faced teenager........ and just you might have believed me. But guess what? We would have both been wrong! Tartine is simply a fancy French name for an open-faced sandwich. With England being in such close proximity to the European continent, many classic French foods have "crossed the Channel" and gained great popularity in the United Kingdom; tartines being one of them.
One morning during our visit to London we strolled for an hour or more along the Thames River, people watching and enjoying the warmth of springtime in Britain. When we had worked up a hearty appetite, our daughter suggested lunch at a fun little restaurant close by called Le Pain Quotidien (French for "daily bread" and pronounced luh paN koh-ti-dyaN). Le Pain Quotidien is actually a wonderful chain that started in Belgium and has spread all over Europe and now in the United States. They offer fantastic fresh salads, soups and pastries, but one of their specialties is tartines. Their menu boasts an interesting variety of these open-faced sandwiches. I was very intrigued by these delightful tartines and realized that the combination possibilities are endless. The only common denominator is a slice of rustic bread brushed with olive oil and toasted to perfect crispness before being topped.
I have a feeling that this will become one of my favorite "go-to meals" on the days I don't feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen. With a well-stocked pantry, a tartine dinner can be on the table before I'd have time to pick up a take-out order! I have already thought of a ton of tartine variations and will be sharing some of them over the next three days along with some of my favorite salads. Pair them together for a yummy lunch or casual dinner!
The Applewood Bacon, Fig and Fontina Tartine recipe that I am sharing today is honestly, crazy-delicious. I loosely adapted it based on a recipe from Gourmet Magazine. The crispy bread, fig butter and gooey melted cheese combine for an unbelievable taste sensation! I served it with a simple salad of mixed greens, dried cherries, dry roasted pistachios and Honey-White Balsamic Dressing (recipe below). This is one of my all time favorite salads. Try these two together, I don't think you'll be disappointed: you might even think you died and went to heaven! :)
Applewood Bacon, Fig and Fontina Tartines
4 thick slices rustic bread
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter, softened
4 tablespoons fig preserves
12 slices apple wood smoked bacon
4 slices Fontina cheese
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
fresh basil, very thinly sliced
1. For bacon, preheat oven to 400 degrees, line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil and place bacon on top.. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until bacon is crisp. Drain on several thicknesses of paper towels.
2. Using a pastry brush, brush both sides of each slice of bread lightly with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and set under the broiler for about 1 minute or until golden brown, flip bread slices to other side and repeat. Watch carefully to prevent burning. Remove baking sheet from oven.
3. Mix together butter and fig preserves. Spread equal amounts of fig butter on each bread slice, top each with 3 strips of bacon. Finish by adding cheese, try to cover as much of the bacon as possible with cheese. Season with freshly ground pepper.
4. Place back under broiler for a further 1-2 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and melted. Sprinkle with basil. Serve immediately.
Honey and White Balsamic Dressing
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small shallot, minced
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2-3 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Mix all ingredients in a glass jar. Shake well to blend.