The evolving recipe for Pan Bagnat
This recipe has evolved over many years, with input or emendation from several sources — my Belgian-born mother; at a presentation by Patricia Wells, a favorite writer on both Paris and Provence (the region of France where this recipe originated); from Denver chef Sean Kelly; and from Julia Child during a lunch break at a meeting of a board on which we both had served. She was bored; I was bored; we talked food of southern France.
“Pan bagnat” is a name in Occitan, the ancient language of southern France, including those regions that we know as Provence and Languedoc. Indeed, in English, Languedoc itself means “the Language of Oc,” where the word “oc” signifies “yes,” as distinct from “oui” for “yes” in northern France. In Occitan, pan bagnat roughly translates as “bathed (or soaked, or wet) bread.”
It essentially is a salade nicoise in a loaf of bread. The “wet” part comes from holding the loaf overnight, wrapped tightly and weighted down, so that the liquid from the dressing
and ingredients soak partially through it.
The loaf is then sliced on the angle and served as individual sandwiches. It’s a perfect example of the best of summer or picnic food — prepared indoors in the cool of the day and ahead of time ... as I have done every summer for, well, many, many years. Ingredients
1 large loaf well-crusted, firmcrumbed bread Arugula, small, mild-flavored
Several leaves fresh basil
2 large ripe tomatoes, skinned,
Several slices roasted or grilled red peppers, jarred or homegrilled, to taste
2-3 large hard-cooked eggs,
peeled and sliced thinly 4 ounces green beans (haricots verts preferably), cooked to just under crisp
Red onion, several very thin
slices, to taste
4 teaspoons large-berried
capers, well rinsed and drained Scattering of black olives, pitted; if large, also sliced (use only cured, such as Moroccan or nicoise, not the mealy, canned, “California” sort)
1 can good quality tuna, packed
in oil, not water Oil-cured “silver” anchovies,
drained (optional to taste) Salt and freshly ground black
Hot sauce, to taste (I am partial to Nando’s PERI-PERI, alertlevel “hot”)
Red wine vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil, your best Directions
Slice the loaf of bread in half horizontally and remove some of the interior crumb in order to slightly hollow it out. Now build the sandwich, layer by layer: enough arugula to cover one half, then a few leaves of basil; the tomatoes, red peppers, eggs, beans, onion, capers and olives sprinkled about; the tuna, crumbled and evenly distributed, and the anchovies if chosen. Depending on the level of salt in the ingredients (for example, in how the olives were cured or in the anchovies), sprinkle salt and then a good amount of pepper over the filling. Sprinkle with hot sauce.
Douse or drizzle both halves of the loaf with both vinegar and olive oil to taste, although not overly so as not to drown the sandwich. Close up the sandwich and wrap it tightly in foil or plastic wrap — make it a mummy — and place it on a baking sheet or large plate. Weigh it down with a large, heavy object, balanced over it, such as a cast iron skillet or two bricks or several large cans of tomatoes, or the like.
Refrigerate the pan bagnat overnight. To serve, bring to room temperature, unwrap and slice crosswise at an angle.