Pan Bagnat

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. 

Serves 2-4.

Ingredients

  • 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.

Method

  1. Slice the tomatoes and layer them on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to drain.
  2. Cut the baguette in half, lengthwise.
  3. Pull out some of the soft bread without damaging the outer crust. You can make croutons from these chunks later.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. 
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Enjoy!

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.

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