What does one of the world’s greatest French chefs eat when he gets home from a long night of work? When recently asked that very question while in Las Vegas, Daniel Boulud pulled out his phone, brandishing a recent photo of a simple spread: flaked tuna and a few slices of toast. “I ate the whole can,” the chef admitted. With restaurants spanning the globe and a newborn at home in New York, Boulud doesn’t have the luxury of time. But as long as he has a few good ingredients on hand—a heel of a country boule, cans of good tuna, some crunchy celery—he’ll eat just fine. The chef took a few minutes in the kitchen of his just-opened Vegas restaurant, db Brasserie, to recreate his on-the-fly, late-night snack. In the words of Boulud: “Now, let’s clean out the refrigerator and make a sandwich!”
Step one: Heat a skillet, drizzle it with olive oil, and add two slices of bread, drizzling with more olive oil.
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Smash a few cloves of garlic. (Boulud needs no implement for this other than his hand.) Add them, skins and all, to the pan, along with a few sprigs of thyme.
Press the bread down to encourage toasting, using whatever you have on hand (in this case, a bowl filled with eggs).
"And when you’re French," says Boulud, "you put butter!" Scrape some butter into the pan and on top of the toasts.
Relax and have a beer while the bread toasts. But nothing too heavy: “I don’t drink dark beer after midnight,” says Boulud.
Flip the bread, and once both sides are toasted, remove it from the pan.
Rub the toast with a fresh clove of garlic.
Spread a spoonful of tapenade over the bread. Boulud usually has a homemade version on hand, but store-bought works, too.
Layer sliced tomatoes, good canned tuna (such as Ortiz), and wedges of hard-boiled eggs on top.
Slice a couple oil-packed anchovies lengthwise and place them on top.
Tuck celery leaves and basil leaves in and around the tuna/tomato/egg pile. Top with sliced scallions and celery. (“I always have celery because I love it in my salads,” says Boulud.) Sprinkle toasted cumin on top.
The main difference between cooking at home and recreating that experience in a restaurant kitchen: Boulud can say, “Lemon!” and one magically appears. His pro move to finish the sandwich: a big squeeze of lemon over the whole tartine, plus a healthy grating of lemon zest and a generous drizzle of olive oil.
"We’re going to make it pretty," says Boulud, "and then we’re gonna smash it." Ready?
Done and done.