Necessity is the mother of invention. And my necessity is most often a 4 o'clock bout of starvation. First, there's the rumble, a deep growling thunder inevitably rolling up from deep inside my stomach. Then I rummage—through my bag, in the back of the freezer, through the pantry, all in hope of the perfect weapon. It was on such one late afternoon quest to silence the hunger within that I discovered this recipe.
Tartines are French open-faced sandwiches. What recommends them most is their bread-to-topping ratio. Often, a slice of good Poilâne bread is spread lightly with soft, country butter, and topped with a simple single layer of smoked salmon, saumon fumé, or a salami, like Rosette de Lyon. Good bread, highlighted with an excellent accent. C'est tout. Et ça suffit.
If there are three fresh things I am never without, they are butter, good crusty bread, and brie. Brown sugar, lurking in a jar in my cabinet, was never really an issue. I sliced up the bread, spread it with butter as all good French tartines are. Unorthodoxly, I toasted it under the broiler until it was crisp enough to have hard edges and a doughy interior. I arranged slices of the brie on the warm bread, sprinkled it with sugar, and used my crème brûlée torch to both blister and brown the sugar into a hard, crunchy top, and to melt the brie just enough to get it to run, but leaving enough texture to keep it on the bread.
I adored it. The sweet smokiness of the caramelized brown sugar complements the gamey edge in the brie. The crunch of the rustic bread snaps, as the running brie oozes into the cracks left behind from each bite. Simple. Four ingredients. Nothing fancy. But so good.
About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way. She also writes the The Secret Ingredient series for Serious Eats.
French in a Flash: Brie and Brown Sugar Tartine
- 4 1-inch-thick slices rustic white round bread, like boule
- Unsalted butter for the bread, room temperature
- 1/2 pound brie, sliced
- 4 to 6 teaspoons light brown sugar, or to taste
Preheat your broiler.
Spread the slices of bread lightly with butter on both sides. Place the bread on a baking sheet, and slide under the boiler, just one or two minutes per side, or until the bread is lightly toasted and slightly crunchy on both sides.
Remove the bread from the oven, leaving them on the baking sheet. Divide the brie slices over the four slices of bread, and then top with the sugar.
Use a crème brûlée torch to melt the brie and caramelize the sugar. Serve immediately, with some walnuts and grapes on the side.