The Punchy Ingredient Daniel Boulud Grates On Top Of Jambon-Beurre

French cuisine is almost universally revered, and intricate, technique-based creations like perfectly-footed macarons or a towering croquembouche tend to wow without fail. Yet many traditional French dishes are downright simple — "simple," oui, but never plain. As "The French Chef" Julia Child herself once put it, "You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces — just good food from fresh ingredients." 

To that effect, foodies would be hard-pressed to find a less complicated dish than the classic French Jambon-Beurre. Don't let its fancy-sounding name fool you. Jambon-Beurre is literally just a ham and butter sandwich, and nobody does it like fine-dining superstar Daniel Boulud. All you need to whip it up is ham, butter, and a baguette. But in his recipe, Boulud recommends adding a secret fourth ingredient: fresh horseradish. "It's nice to add a little bite to it," the chef tells GQ.

If you've never worked with it before, horseradish is a root in the same family as mustard and wasabi. Like the eponymous condiment, raw horseradish root packs a sharp, pungent flavor and aroma with tear-inducing strength. To make it work for his Jambon-Beurre, Boulud gently grates the root with a zester. When you're finished, store your leftover horseradish root in the refrigerator's crisper drawer. If you don't have any fresh horseradish root on hand (for some reason), a smear of horsey sauce would make a fitting substitute.

Horsin' around the kitchen

With such a simple sandwich, there isn't much to hide behind. As such, Daniel Boulud says a good Jambon-Beurre should be a showcase of quality ingredients. The chef recommends using thinly-sliced ham and a light sprinkling of aged Comte cheese. (It's a departure from the traditional recipe, but we aren't complaining.) To amp up the flavor, you might opt for a salted cream butter like Kerrygold. Don't hold back with the butter here. It single-handedly does all the heavy lifting as this sandwich's moisture component — and, as Boulud puts it, "The bread loves butter, we all know." Tap into your Parisian side and bop over to a local bakery for the baguette. (Bonus points if you carry it home in a brown paper bag.) 

Keep in mind here that a little horseradish goes a long way, especially when you're using fresh root. If the straight stuff is a little strong for your taste, there's nothing in the rule book that says you can't tone it down with a smear of mayonnaise.

To complete the meal, enjoy that Jambon-Beurre with a dish of cornichons and a complimentary wine. Sweet-salty ham pairs well with fruity, high-acidity wines like Moscato, Riesling, Grenache, and Zinfandel. Enjoy the sandwich as-is for a quick, classy lunch. Or, as Boulud suggests, leave your Jambon-Beurre open-faced and slice it into thin strips as an elevated hors d'oeuvre perfect for a cocktail party.