Here's something you should know about me: I won't eat airplane food. Ever. You could put me on a flight to Australia, tell me there's a 9-hour delay on the tarmac, and I still wouldn't give in. Happily, this scenario never arises because I am notorious for packing an airplane picnic.
The day before a trip, when I'm running around doing laundry, cleaning the house, and making sure there's sufficient cat food on hand, I always allow an hour or so to shop for our mile-high meal—and it's almost always the same thing. My fear of flying keeps me consistent, like a baseball player who always wears his winning pair of socks. The idea that I had this exact meal on our last flight and made it safely back to earth gives me a sense of security.
Thinly sliced French-style ham with tangy cornichons and lots of salty butter on a baguette is my talisman; it's the perfect food at 35,000 feet. It may actually be the perfect sandwich period. (Author's note: In case you ever happen to sit next to me, you should know that we do detour from eating this sandwich once a year, on the flight home from LA after Thanksgiving. On that trip, we always have leftover turkey and avocado on sourdough. Again, all in the name of safety.)
Ham & Cornichons on Buttered Baguette
1 baguette, about 18"
salted butter (preferably a European-style butter, such as Chimay or Kerrygold)
8–12 thin slices jambon de Paris or other French-style cooked ham
14–16 cornichons, halved
toothpicks, as needed
1. Slice the baguette lengthwise and generously smear both sides with salty butter (you really can't over-butter this sandwich, in my opinion). Drape the ham slices in gentle folds over the bottom half of the loaf and then top with the cornichon halves.
2. Place the nicely buttered top half over the bottom of the loaf and secure the sandwich with toothpicks at 8 to 12 even intervals. Use a bread knife to cut the sandwich evenly into slices between the toothpicks and serve. If, by chance, you're not serving this to guests but packing it for a flight instead, cut it for only as many as you're planning to share with (I suggest no more than one), wrap tightly in foil, and pack in your carry-on along with a bag of salted potato chips.
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