Recently, Pan Bagnat has come back across my radar. What a wonderful summer sandwich it is, and why haven’t I made it in such a long time? I believe the first time I tasted it was in the south of France, where it’s very common and you can find many different versions of it. It tasted so good on a hot summer day, was easy to make, and I made it many times right after we returned. But as time marched on, I somehow forgot about it. Then, just last week, I saw a post on a blog in France about Pan Bagnat made with fresh produce from a Mediterranean garden, and it looked so yummy that it brought the taste back to me, and I’ve been craving it.
It’s Pan Bagnat night. I’m armed with canned tuna, green bell pepper, Kalamata olives, tomatoes, brie, shallot, arugula and a rosemary demi-baguette, along with a rough idea of how I used to make it, inspired by Julia Child’s recipe. Here’s how I put it together.
The name Pan Bagnat means “wet bread” although I prefer the term “bathed”, so it’s essential to bathe it with dressing/olive oil in order to achieve the real deal. Julia says the oil should run down your arm when you eat Pan Bagnat…I’d like to live to see another day, so I’m cutting back a bit on that idea.
First, I slice a demi-baguette about 10 inches long in half lengthwise horizontally. In a small bowl I combine 1 small finely chopped shallot, 2 Tablespoons olive oil, 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar, a pinch of Kosher salt, and several grinds of fresh black pepper. Whisk to emulsify the dressing, then drizzle 2 Tablespoons of the dressing evenly divided over each half of the baguette. Drizzle about 1 more teaspoon of straight olive oil over the two slices of baguette just for good measure.
On the bottom half of the now fairly saturated baguette, layer the arugula evenly…I used about a cup. Next, place about 8 thin-ish slices of brie in a single layer on top of the arugula. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of chopped brined black olives on top of the brie, preferably Niçoise or Kalamata. Next, layer thinly sliced green bell pepper on top of the olives, I used about 1/3 of a pepper. Top the pepper with thinly sliced tomato to cover generously in one layer…I used two plum tomatoes. Sprinkle the remaining dressing over the tomatoes. On the top inside of the baguette, arrange 1-6 oz. can of drained and flaked tuna…oil packed is great and used in some cases, and anchovies in some cases, but I had water packed, so I lightly drizzled a little more olive oil on top of the tuna to compensate for lack of oil.
Now, carefully close the two sides together, tucking in any wayward ingredients that try to escape…and they will! Wrap the Pan Bagnat in plastic wrap as tightly as you can and don’t skimp on the wrap, then press hard down on the top to start the release of the juices. Place the well-wrapped sandwich on a plate in the fridge, and put a weight on top of it…Julia uses a wrapped brick, I just put whatever I had on top that was heavy. Leave it in the fridge for at least an hour and up to 24 hours, to allow the juices to flow into the bread.
At this point, you can take your sandwich out on a picnic, or have it for lunch or dinner with a friend—or with several friends if you made a bigger one out of a bigger bread and proportionately more ingredients. We’re having ours for dinner with a vegetable salad. Carefully unwrap the sandwich and cut it in half crosswise.
Et Voila! Pan Bagnat, serves 2. Now say “Bon appétit” in your best Julia voice!