The French “Smash” Sandwich

Back when I lived in Toulon, France in the early 90’s I discovered a curious sort of sandwich popular in the southern region—always made-to-order in small, charming sidewalk stands. They call it sandwich américain. It’s not only one kind, but rather a style, of which there are lots of variations.

My favorite was a ground beef patty on a baguette, SMASHED with shredded gruyère in your basic panini maker. Then, you open it back up, slather in the mayonnaise, and add the pomme frites (french fries). Other variations include using sausages, or not having cheese; using moutarde, or having various produce—just like a typical burger here. And, of course, it’s not typically smashed when it has produce.

First you’ll want to get your fries going. Twice fried, of course. Those are done in a mix of coconut oil and bacon drippings.

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Pomme Frites

Don’t even bother unless you have access to something resembling a true French baguette. Here in San Jose and the Bay Area, Acme Bread Company is about the most authentic I’ve found, and both Whole Foods and Lunardi’s carry it. Sweet, of course, not sourdough.

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Une Baguette

A convenient way to cook the patty is to just use the panini maker. It’s done as soon as you see the first sign of drippings.

I added a bit of cheddar I had on hand to the gruyère in this case. 

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Time to smash it.

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Smash Sandwich

Then pull it back open, add the mayo and your fries. Note: it’s often smashed with the fries as well as the cheese, but this is likely because the fries aren’t hot right out of the fryer as were mine.

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C’est complètement fou, non?

Back in those days, at 30ya, I could easy down a whole one often, and I never added an ounce to my frame. Today, something like this is a rare treat, and I split it with Bea.

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Not Paleo Approved!

Sure, I can see being criticized for even putting stuff like this out there but you know what? You’re going to have your indulgences now and then anyway. I’d rather you go get a quality loaf of bread, source some quality ingredients, fry whatever needs frying in good oils, and make it an overall better option than a fast food burger.

Next food post will be about Sous Vide pork chops; but after that, I’ll show you a few other great options for a good baguette from Acme Bread Company.

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  1. Jimmy 4 Jesus says:

    The Paleo Gods will be livid! Just make it on your fat bread and avoid the seething wrath of the Paleo Gods I say.

  2. Alessandro says:

    love it
    there is no reason to avoid gluten if you’re not gluten intolerant

  3. Classic Cuban sandwiches are also smashed and hot. But I could never figure out the use of Swiss cheese in a tropical land. Just doesn’t seem likely, but now it’s considered authentic.

    I think Cuban sandwiches are highly overrated. After all, it’s basically hot ham ‘n Swiss, add a pickle.

    Your sandwich seems much more tasty.

  4. you ve seen it all —when you go to italy and they have the American— pizza slice (pizza with french fries on top ) :)

  5. Jesrad says:

    Belgians and northern French call them “sandwich mitraillette” (machine-gun sandwich), how cool is that ?

    C’était mon déjeuner quotidien en 2008, l’époque où j’ai pris vingt kilos. Coïncidence ? Je ne pense pas, non.

  6. LaFrite says:

    Hi Richard,

    I bet it would truly deserve its name “Américain” if a yankee added a thick layer of peanut butter somewhere in-between …

    Ah wait, this has been done :

    hahaha 😀

    Sorry, couldn’t help :)

    I used to eat mine with “merguez” but the “steack haché” version was also fine :) I never did it at home though, so I got the junkier versions of this sandwich. It’s been many many years since I got one …

    • …Or, ketchup, La Fite.

      Ha, back in the day, whenever I’d get into an argument with my fellow French Navy officers in the carre, someone would give the signal and the stewards would bring out a bottle of ketchup and set it on the table in front of me.

  7. Jimmy 4 Jesus says:

    Dude, put the sandwich press down and finish the book. RS books are popping up everywhere. Here’s one that recommends green bananas:

  8. If I was to eat that, I’d end up in the hospital. Grains, and particularly gluten+oats, don’t agree with me. If it was not for Paleo, I would probably be already dead right now (I was on my last ropes when I finally decided to give it a try in 2011).

    If I want to indulge, I simply have a GF pizza, or a rice bowl at Chipotle — not very often. I do eat beans once or twice a month too, so I’m not one of these hardcore, single-minded Paleos.

    Regarding grains, I also don’t believe that it’s gluten that creates the “non-celiac gluten intolerance” for so many people. Gluten might play a role, but I truly believe that it’s another compound found in these grains and pseudograins that create all these health problems to non-celiac people. It’s just that science hasn’t found it yet. Case in point, refractory celiac disease that doesn’t get fixed with a plain gluten-free diet, but Paleo does take care of it. My own medical tests and experience tell me that it’s not just gluten and wheat that is to blame, but a larger range of grain-like foods containing that unknown-yet compound, that wheat simply is the worst offender. This is just a hunch at this point, I have no evidence to back it up, all I know for sure is that grains and most pseudograins make me sick. Recent research papers from last year also showed that many cultivars of non-contaminated GF oats, and 3 out of 15 cultivars of quinoa create celiac symptoms, even if they contain no gluten. So something’s amiss in the whole story, something we don’t yet know…

    So please excuse me if I won’t try this recipe. :)

    • I agree with you, Eugenia, that there’s probably more to it than gluten.

      In my case, since doing the RS and probiotics, it doesn’t seem to bother me in the slightest in small doses (heartburn and runny nose are my chief symptoms).

    • Martin says:

      Richard, could you share any data on how the resistant starches and reintroducing some grains and starches affected your body weight / body fat / blood glucose? I find it amazing that you get so much better off by doing the opposite of what e.g. Jimmy Moore is doing. He’d been quite open about his issues with regaining fat and high blood sugars but after adopting very strict nutritional ketosis diet (following Phinney & Volek) he managed to overcome the problems. You seem to be doing the exact opposite and you are very kritical about ketogenic diet. Could you share any of the stats that document your success?

    • Martint says:

      I get your point, thanks..

    • Dr. Curmudgeon Gee says:

      i agree w/ Eugenia & i’m not celiac

      wheat = bloating + headache + neck ache + i brain fog

      note: bloating is not the same as gassy (“fartage” in RN’s word) for me

      i can only try this w/ a GF free bread

  9. Dr. Curmudgeon Gee says:

    ps. i also agree w/ Eugenia re. grains that the issue is more than just gluten.

    i can usually tell people who have had too much “whole cereal grains” (improperly prepared) from their teeth.


  10. Rob Turner says:

    Seeing chips (fries) and bread made me want a chip butty:

  11. Hi,
    When I was in the Navy, we made regular stops in Toulon. When in port, down in the “gut”, I would always get me a smash sandwich. I still dream of them. Thanks for the posting.

    • Yes when i was stationed in Sardinia on tge USS Orion we wouldat least stop in Toulon Once or twice a year…I would eat these sandwiches every night!

  12. Thanks! All of my Navy buddies and I have been dying for one of these since visiting Toulon in 96. I still don’t see where the magic is coming from but will try this. Maybe it’s the quality of hamburger and baguette? Fresh fries cooked in bacon lard might help too. Either way, glad to know we aren’t alone in our love of the smash sandwich.

    • I was on the USS Pensacola in 96-97, which stopped in Toulon, and we ate this just about every day that we could get out to the gut. I’m with John though. I would really like to know what made these things so damn good. My attempts to recreate have been sub-par at best.

    • Good baguette. Absolutely essential. Genuine French Gruyere. Other than that, things start becoming a matter of preference quick, such as opening it up after the cooking and adding mayo (my personal favorite).

    • Richard,
      Do you still have any contacts in Toulon? I’d like to know what other items were on the menus of the sidewalk stands, or what other variations of the smash sandwiches there are, that were sold. I’ve already located some Gruyere and will be making another attempt at the sandwich.


    • Nope, been way too long. Plus most friends were Frnch navy and were only there for the gig at the time. I’m sure that with some googling around, you can find other sandwiches. As you may have noticed, not all of them were smashed. Google sandwich jambon beurre. That’s a great one. Be sure it’s a top quality French baguette, the ham is french style (not cured or smoked), and the butter is unsalted. For an added delight, you can put cornichon pickles on it.

      • An old thread but a friendly one :)

        A fav of mine is thick slice of “pain de campagne” (loaf of artisan country bread, usually whole wheat) slightly toasted, butter (salted or unsalted, does not matter even though I grew up with unsalted so I tend to use that) and a decadent layer of real Camembert au lait cru de Normandie … mmm … I salivate already 😀

      • There you go, riling up a pet peeve, which is America’s silly obsession with Brie, which I think is because it sounds chic, wherea’s Camembert is unprounounceable in a proper manner and has overtones of something Catholic sinister, or something.

        But there is no comparison. A Brie won’t properly ripen, even if you leave it on the countertop for a week. A good Camembert, on the other hand, when ripe, can be an Ecclesiastical experience.

      • Haha, yeah, that’s about the difference : one triggers a “taste epiphany” 😀

        A (real) Coulommier can be used as well if you can’t find a genuine Camembert.

        By the way, did yo uknow that nowadays, you find all sorts of Camembert lookalikes that are allowed to be called Camembert, but they are not the real deal. ?

        The real Camembert must comply with the AOC (Appelation d’Origine Controlée): it must be “de Normandie au lait cru”, i.e. from Normandy with raw milk. If you don’t see the whole sentence on the box, that’s not a real Camembert. Even pasteurized milk from Normandy won’t do. AOC implies Normandy and raw milk.

      • Oh shit.

        I have likely been fooled by triple creme.

      • While I’m on it, what the fuck with the Chèvre logs? You know. Leave them out, skin shrivels, forms a mucous barrier between that and the dryer inner log, and is so pungent that it will sting the inside of your mouth?

        They have the logs here, but none of them ripen like that.

      • See

        […]and produced in the Poitou-Charentes region in the Loire Valley of central France[…]

        That’s probably why: it is not genuine “terroir” Bûche de Chêvre (see here for Terroir :

        As a first key aspect, you need the proper mold :)

        It is a nice cheese by the way, you can wrap a piece of bacon around a cheese slice. add a touch of honey on top bake it quick. Serve on toasted bread with a _thin_ layer of butter :)

      • Here is a recipe (in French) :

        The honey part is optional, I like it with a touch of honey, and maybe a drop of balsamico.

      • Love how it can clear out the sinuses.

        It’s probably tough to get here because American’s would think it spoiled just at the point it’s getting good.

  13. John Daronco says:

    I invented the smash sandwich while I was in the Navy around 1986 in Toulon. White french bread topped with roast beef (with natural gravy) and french fries smashed with a waffle iron to heat it. Ketchup was added after it was heated. The vendor asked what i was called and I told him a smash sandwich. Some tourists asked for the same thing, then some sailors saw me and my friends eaing them and asked for the same thing. A year later when we returned restaurants were offering the “smash sandwich.”

  14. Bill McKay says:

    I own a brewery in NC now. Spent 20+ in the Marine Corps! Many, many “smashers” have been eaten by me as we hustle back to our ship! I now have them on our menu and tell the story almost daily!

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