The evolv­ing recipe for Pan Bag­nat

The Denver Post - - LIFE&CULTURE - By Bill St. John

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

leaves only

Sev­eral leaves fresh basil

2 large ripe toma­toes, skinned,

seeded, sliced

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.

Den­ver Post file

Pan Bag­nat.

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