A popular street food throughout Provence is pan bagnat, a sandwich that is essentially a Niçoise salad on crusty french bread. Literally translated, pan bagnat means “bathed bread,” and after a night of resting in the fridge that is what results. Juices from tomatoes, red peppers, olives, scallions, tuna and olive oil moisten the inside of a baguette while the outside remains firm. It is the most delicious picnic sandwich I’ve ever made. The overnight maturation of the flavors really makes it special.
I made one of these fabulous things the night before we saddled up Pernell for a trip to Oregon this past week, in which we avoided people and embraced farm creatures and empty beaches. It supplied two meals for us on the road, a rather efficient way to pack up an RV refrigerator, in my humble opinion.
- 1 baguette, the best quality you can find. I used a seeded baguette from Macrina bakery.
- 2 heirloom tomatoes (medium sized; big ones have too much water).
- one 7-ounce (200g) can of the best tuna you can find. I used Whidbey Island Trollers albacore. This is water packed tuna, and I drain it. You can use tuna packed in olive oil and save the oil to use later instead of the additional olive oil listed below.
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips.
- 2 scallions, white and green parts cut into thin rings.
- 2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced.
- 6 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained.
- 10 pitted black olives, preferably Niçoise, but Kalamata olives work too.
- sea salt
- black pepper
- olive oil — high quality, robust flavored.
- Slice the tomatoes and layer them on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to drain.
- Cut the baguette in half, lengthwise.
- Pull out some of the soft bread without damaging the outer crust. You can make croutons from these chunks later.
- Flake the tuna into a bowl. Add enough olive oil to create plenty of moisture, but not so much that the tuna is floating in oil. Add the red pepper, scallions, pinches of salt and a good turn of freshly ground black pepper. Stir everything together. If the tuna looks dry, add a bit more olive oil.
- Layer the sandwich ingredients on the bottom half of the bread as follows: tomatoes, tuna mixture, eggs, anchovies, olives. Season with more salt and pepper. Cover with the top half of the bread.
- Wrap the whole thing tightly in foil and secure with rubber bands. You want to put some pressure on the sandwich so that everything is compressed together.
- Put the sandwich in the fridge overnight until ready to eat the next day. This will keep for a second day if you rewrap it securely.
When ready to serve, I slice individual pieces through the foil. This has the effect of holding the sandwich together for a return the fridge if not all of it is being consumed right away.
These are a bit messy, so make sure you have plates (paper plates in RVs are perfectly acceptable.) and plenty of napkins to catch falling pieces.
PS — I adore anchovies, but perhaps you do not? Maybe I can entice you into learning to love them by telling you that they are packed with omega-3s and therefore good for your brain and your heart. Not sufficiently motivating? How about if I told you sexy people eat anchovies? Have you ever been to Italy or the south of France or Spain? Be sexy. Eat anchovies.