Those who know me also know that I’m not generally into sports. Add in a food component, however, and I’m there (baseball and garlic fries, anyone?) So, when my friend Nath said he would be hosting an international sandwich bracket for the Rugby World Cup, I was totally in.
The bracket rules are as follows:
- Before a rugby match, sandwiches from the opposing countries square off.
- Sandwich-eaters vote for their favorites. There is only one winning sandwich per “game”.
- Winning sandwiches progress through a bracket, as do the rugby teams in the World Cup.
- However, the sandwich that wins may not match the country that wins the game. This is to be expected, as it’s ultimately about the most delicious sandwich.
When I arrived, I’d just missed the previous sandwiches: Welsh rarebit versus a South African Gatsby. Pretty tragic, given that rarebit is especially delicious (it’s essentially bread baked in cheese and beer. What could possibly be bad about that?)
The Wales vs. South Africa game was just wrapping up, with this noble beast in attendance…
…and then it was time to prep the sandwiches for the next game, France versus New Zealand.
France’s sandwich representative was a croque monsieur: an inordinately rich, baked ham and cheese sandwich. After polling Kiwi friends, New Zealand’s entry was a cold butter, cheddar, and onion sandwich. (Sounds strange, but apparently it’s very popular!)
For the croque monsieurs, fluffy Columbia City brioche was first sliced into thick pieces.
Then, the crusts were removed (we dipped them into the leftover cheesy-beery rarebit sauce. Hanging out with foodie friends is a pretty terrible life.)
Meanwhile, ham was thinly sliced for the sandwiches and béchamel sauce was warmed up. All three dogs in attendance were thrown into a frenzy by the scent of the ham, and at least one began hoovering the kitchen with her snout.
Next, béchamel was generously spooned over the sandwiches before getting topped with more cheese. When it comes to their sandwich game, the French play to win.
Even before going into the oven for another good toast, these sandwiches already looked fantastic. Look at all that cheese and cream sauce!
While the hungry hordes awaited the toasty goodness, we dipped ham in leftover béchamel. It’s delicious. By all means, do try it at home.
We took a peek a short a short time later, and the croque monsieurs were bubbling, fragrant, and almost ready to come out of the oven. Just a little more browning needed at this point.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand sandwiches (cold cheese and onion) came out of the refrigerator. The hungry masses moved in for a taste.
Which sandwich would win? Hot or cold? Rich and decadent, or simple and down-to-earth?
Oh, who am I kidding? The croque monsieur won, obviously. The cheese and onion sandwich got one pity vote, but it was an overwhelming victory for France–which means that they move on to challenge another sandwich next weekend!
When it came to the actual rugby match, well… unfortunately, France got thumped by the New Zealand All Blacks. But perhaps they can take solace in this: they sure know how to make a mean sandwich. Someone buy Les Tricolores a croque monsieur or three, okay?