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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.

IMG 2491
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. 

IMG 2493

Time to smash it.

IMG 2494
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.

IMG 2495
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.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

56 Comments

  1. Jimmy 4 Jesus on July 14, 2014 at 14:23

    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 on July 14, 2014 at 23:01

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

  3. pzo on July 15, 2014 at 06:10

    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. eddie on July 15, 2014 at 07:02

    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 on July 15, 2014 at 11:28

    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.

    • Richard Nikoley on July 15, 2014 at 14:07

      Moi non plus. C’est pourquoi c’est une moitié d’un rare.

    • LaFrite on July 15, 2014 at 23:29

      Déjeuner quotidien ?? Un amerloque tous les jours ??? wow, that’s fucked up! 😀 😀

  6. LaFrite on July 15, 2014 at 12:34

    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 : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fool%27s_Gold_Loaf

    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 …

    • Richard Nikoley on July 15, 2014 at 14:10

      …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 on July 15, 2014 at 13:39

    Dude, put the sandwich press down and finish the book. RS books are popping up everywhere. Here’s one that recommends green bananas: http://mobile.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/professor-reveals-what-foods-really-help-shed-kilos-green-bananas-avoid-mashed-potatoes/story-fneuz9ev-1226990384923

  8. Eugenia on July 15, 2014 at 15:21

    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. 🙂

    • Richard Nikoley on July 15, 2014 at 15:56

      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 on July 16, 2014 at 14:00

      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?

    • Richard Nikoley on July 16, 2014 at 14:10
    • Martint on July 17, 2014 at 04:11

      I get your point, thanks..

    • Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on July 23, 2014 at 22:22

      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

    • Aimee on March 11, 2017 at 15:43

      So why did you even post here. To make those of us who don’t suffer from your disease feel bad for enjoying a Toulon classic ? Sorry for your problem,, but try not to be Debbie Downer to the rest of us. t f

  9. Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on July 24, 2014 at 14:07

    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.

    regards,

  10. Rob Turner on August 14, 2014 at 11:06

    Seeing chips (fries) and bread made me want a chip butty: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chip_butty

  11. Dave on December 9, 2014 at 11:52

    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.

    • NavyDavy on December 28, 2014 at 07:16

      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!

    • Erik on February 24, 2017 at 16:27

      Loved smashed sandwiches! Never ate one sober…Was in Sardinia in the Navy too…Do I know you Navy Davy?

    • Jackie on September 4, 2017 at 21:24

      Navy Dave I was also in Toulon as port visit on the USS Wasp LHD1 in 1992. Ate a smashed sandwich every day GREAT from the food stand before going back to the ship for the day.

  12. John on April 6, 2015 at 10:53

    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.

    • Steve on April 6, 2015 at 18:23

      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.

    • Richard Nikoley on April 6, 2015 at 18:52

      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).

    • Steve on April 7, 2015 at 09:04

      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.

      Steve

    • Richard Nikoley on April 7, 2015 at 09:28

      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.

      • LaFrite on January 25, 2016 at 01:55

        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 😀



      • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2016 at 08:20

        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.



      • Lafrite on January 26, 2016 at 00:51

        See http://www.cheese.com/buche-de-chevre/

        […]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 🙂



      • LaFrite on January 25, 2016 at 11:18

        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.



      • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2016 at 14:12

        Oh shit.

        I have likely been fooled by triple creme.



      • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2016 at 14:16

        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.



      • Lafrite on January 26, 2016 at 01:29

        Here is a recipe (in French) :

        http://cuisine.journaldesfemmes.com/recette/310547-toasts-chevre-et-lard

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



      • Richard Nikoley on January 26, 2016 at 07:46

        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.



    • Kurt on October 4, 2016 at 09:02

      I was in Toulon, twice (once on Independence Day, where the mayor of Toulon gave us a little parade and reception), and enjoyed these treats whenever we could. That was in the summer of 1988, when I was stationed in USS PARGO (SSN 650) and we were on a six month Med cruise, doing a lot of NATO ops. These sandwiches were the most requested by the duty section from those of us lucky enough to be going out on liberty, and they would stay up to get them once we stumbled back to the boat. As I remember, the already done fries were smashed with the meat and other ingredients from the git-go, and pressed into this massively dense and delicious sammich that had to weigh a pound. Back then, I was young and active enough to eat whole one without gaining an ounce; but after a night of fine French wine, bread, and cheese, it made for a good night’s sleep.

  13. John Daronco on October 18, 2015 at 00:47

    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.”

    • Dave on February 1, 2019 at 21:13

      Sorry John..you didn’t invent it..I was in Toulon aboard the USS Bainbrdge in 85′ and ate them everyday from a cart in the “gut” section of town. Nice try though

    • John DaRonco on November 29, 2019 at 07:29

      Sorry Dave , I was in Marsailles which is by Toulon, and when we went on liberty the boat pulled in to a docking area where there was a stand on the right hand side. The man was getting ready to close his stand, anyway you read what I said happened. I said some time around 86, was prob 85. He asked, while my friends and I were walking away, what the sandwich was called and I replied a ‘smash sandwich.’ He then repeated the question and I repeated the same. We returned to Marsailles the following year and he had a huge sign above his stand that read, Authentic American Smash Sandwiches.’ My friends and I laughed. I explained how he had made that first sandwich for me. He said before he sold the sandwich he use to work 6.5 days a week (his half day off was to go to church) but with the success of the sandwich he only worked 5 days, he now gets to stay at home with wife on weekends and its helping to pay for daughters college. We were shocked to see how many restaurants we carrying the ‘smash sandwich’ on their menus but assumed the varieties were based on other Americans input of their preferences. I was on the U.S.S. Seattle at the time. The panini is on sliced bread instead of french bread and came out after.

  14. Bill McKay on January 22, 2016 at 19:42

    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!

    • mike on August 30, 2017 at 20:05

      Where is this brewery? i might have to visit one day. I live in SC and miss a good smash sandwich from Toulon and the Navy days.

  15. Michael Fischer on March 4, 2016 at 12:31

    I pulled into Toulon 2 times on the Navy Ship I served on…US Sailors called that sandwich Dog Burger because they think the meat us ground dog…I ate a couple of those burgers but I could only eat it if I was a little drunk…

  16. Troy on December 5, 2016 at 09:43

    Richard, I enjoyed your article! It brought back memories of liberty ports while I was in the U.S. Navy. We always grabbed a “Smashed Sandich” when we got off the boat in France (Toulon and Marsellies)! Those babies would last all day while walking aroung sightseeing…

  17. disqus_b6ba4D7ymO on January 15, 2017 at 00:15

    Anyone who served and landed in France in the ’90’s and beyond as many times as I did. Ran for the nearest pub, had a drink with your buddies and then for the nearest place you could get a smash sandwich. I rode carriers and usually anchored off Cannes and rode the liberty boats into the marina. Life was wonderful with a Long Island Ice Tea in one hand and a smash sandwich in the other while sitting at an outdoor cafe looking out over the beautiful marina and out to the Med and see my floating city and home a few miles out in the distance. I’d do it all over again if I could! Dave

    • Kurt on January 15, 2017 at 12:15

      My experience was in the summer of 1988 in Toulon; we would pick up the sandwiches and go to a little outdoor cafe in the center of town. After the sandwiches were consumed, we would order a carafe of wine and bread and cheese and just watch life as it went by. Good times.

  18. Jason Headley on January 27, 2017 at 14:56

    I can’t even count the number of times that I’ve pulled into a French port and had these sandwiches. My favorite was with hot ham and sausage. I’ve never remembered the name of them, but I’ve told stories of them four years.

    Now I know the secret ingredients! You’ve me one hair retired sailor!

  19. Mark on January 28, 2017 at 06:44

    Sailors visiting Toulon made this sandwich famous.

    Nothing better for returning to the ship than a SMASH SAMMICH

    Gotta love the French. Any cuisine that fries in coconut oil and bacon grease can’t be bad

  20. Kerry on February 28, 2017 at 22:46

    I have been to Toulon and my favorite of any food I have ever had was the Smash Sandwich. Burger, Fries, Ketchup and mustard all smashed together. Was there for a week and ate one everyday. As you say it is def a treat and the bread was amazing!!! Thanks for sharing.

  21. Chet B Jennelle on May 16, 2017 at 12:31

    I spent some time there when I was in the Marine Corps in the very early nineties and I know that I ate dozens of these sandwiches along with all my fellow Marines. The sandwiches were fairly inexpensive and were used to get over plenty of hangovers. I’ve thought of these sandwiches many many times over the years and if I was ever able to return there it would be one of my biggest reasons for doing so. Amazingly delicious!!!!

  22. John Daronco on July 10, 2017 at 09:17

    The smash sandwich was invented be me. I was in the Navy, asked tte guy to make me a sandwich with french fries. He misunderstood and put the fries on the sandwich. I asked him if he could heat it up on the waffle iron (which he did) and my friends all asked for the same thing. Other people came up, also in the Navy from another ship, and wanted the same thing. The man asked what the samdwich was called and I said “a smash samdwih.” The mext day one of his signs said, “Authentic American Smash Sandwiches.” A year later when our ship returned all the restaurants were offering the “smash sandwich.” The man still owned the stamd but said he was so successful in selling the samdwich he only sold smash sandwiches and instead of working 6 1/2 days a week only had to work 5 days a week. He thanked me and offered me a sandwich, I replied “Not right now but will gladly come back later and buy one.” Thus, the story of a drunk sailor who invented the “Smash Sandwich.”

  23. mike on August 30, 2017 at 20:01

    I visited Toulon in the early 90’s with the US Navy and loved those sandwiches and have never found them again after we left there. Simply amazing and i still think about those 20 some years later

  24. ERIC SARETSKY on April 24, 2018 at 13:23

    In the Navy I visited Toulon a few times between 1994 and 1996. Because I spoke passable French I spent time with friends in taverns playing music and having a great time making acquaintances. Wrote stories of my travels for family at home. These days I have a couple blogs and enjoy sharing the memories. Smash sandwiches were amazing, though I laughed that the kiosks were all staffed by buxom women – Italian I found out ( I spoke a little Italian then) . Love this memory. I linked to your image of the sandwich in my WordPress media. Please visit my blog if you like. eric = writing as ‘notdonner”

  25. James S (Navy retired) on December 15, 2021 at 00:01

    I know this is an old thread but I am still posting. I was hitting the stands right outside the gates every time we were there in port, from 99-2008. Between the booze and them sandwiches, we would stink up the berthing. Man they were good, never found another place that tasted quite like theirs though.

    • Todd on December 21, 2021 at 10:03

      We used to get the Smash in Marseille in 93. It was one of many fond memories i have of being in the Navy. By the way not a good place to spend Christmas. This sandwich was golden with a few beers. Very similar to those sandwiches they made in Israel with that fellafel bread. I wonder if their still making it.

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