Question: What goes in a Parisian baguette sandwich? What is a good French cookbook to have in my library? I was thinking Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Answer: The most popular of baguette sandwiches that you will find eaten in Paris and all over France is what is known as a jambon-beurre, or ham and butter. Sometimes it is referred to simply as a Parisien.
Begin with a freshly baked baguette (this is the sort of bread that is intended only to be eaten the day it is baked ). Slice the baguette lengthwise, leaving a "hinge" on one side. Spread the inside with butter, and add a slice or two of thinly sliced ham. That's it. Needless to say the pleasure of eating such a sandwich depends upon the quality of the ingredients.
There are many variations of course on what could go into a baguette sandwich, but in France the jambon beurre predominates. It is said that French people eat ten times as many jambon beurres as hamburgers!
As to French cookbooks, there are probably hundreds of good candidates. Julia Child's, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, is certainly an excellent resource. In it you will find in depth instructions for making many French classics, explained in terms and measurements North American cooks will find familiar. However, I personally feel it is at times a bit dated. After all, French cooking has evolved since this book was first published
The one French cookbook I have enjoyed the most over the years, and the one I continue to this day to learn from is Larousse de la Cuisine.
This book is written in French and the recipes are given using weights instead of cups and tablespoons, which can take some getting used to. However, in truth, this is a much more accurate way to cook, and is actually notably easier once you get used to it.
The Larousse also contains many, many definitions and is a rich source of all sorts of information about French food, wine and cooking. Note that there are several different LaRousse cookbooks, and I can not vouch for the quality of the recipes in all of them. However, this version has many recipes I have tested and they have all worked very well. It is a fun book just to browse, but it is also a reliable cookbook.
Hope that helps some.