Pan Bagnat

Stay away, mayonnaise.

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August 24, 2020

Prep: 20min

Cook: 1h 10min

Serves: 2

The gist.

Two hundred years ago, the poor person’s pan bagnat had anchovies and water, while the rich used tuna and olive oil. Now it’s mostly based on which ingredients you prefer. To make the sandwich, you essentially build a summer salad on a French loaf of bread and then wrap and compress it for an hour or so. Try it.

Working a little language translation magic, we find out that the French title “pan bagnat” is “bathed bread” in English. This is a meal from the south of France, one you can imagine yourself enjoying on a sunny day on the Mediterranean coast with a crisp rosé at your side.

The pan bagnat was initially a budget-friendly sandwich eaten by poor French people in the 19th century. It was made with old bread, some water to soften that old bread, and a few vegetables from the season. Sometimes, if wages were high and market prices were low, anchovies were purchased and added to the sandwich. At some point a bourgeois version came about that swapped the anchovies with tuna and added a nice drizzle of olive oil to the bread. These days the divide between the “poor” and “rich” versions has disappeared, and most variations are based on preference.

If you happen to be an expert in southern French cuisine you’ll immediately notice from the photo of this recipe that I’ve used the wrong bread. You’ve caught me, I’m a fake, and I apologize. The real deal is made with a round loaf of bread called “pain de campagne.” Find a round loaf if you want the whole experience to be a bit more authentic, but the sandwich will be no less incredible if you use a baguette as is pictured on this page.

There is no standard as to how long the sandwich needs to sit before eating. I’ve seen recipes (usually in French cookbooks and blogs) that suggest eating immediately, and I’ve seen other recipes that suggest waiting an entire 24 hours before digging in. I leave the sandwich for one hour at room temperature and find it to be long enough for the bread to soften from the dressing, but not so long that the crispness of the vegetables disappears.

If you are anti-anchovies, use anchovies. Maybe this sandwich will grant you the acquired taste. They’re extremely salty and quite pungent, but there are so many ingredients piled into the bread that the flavors balance out and the anchovy power is reduced. If you are really, seriously anti-anchovies, use tuna.

I’m excited for you to try this one out. Some vegetables might fall out as you take a bite, and the tomato juice might drip down your arm, but it’s totally worth it. And remember, no mayonnaise on this one.

Ingredients

Steps

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Pan Bagnat

  • Prep time: 20min
  • Cook time: 1h 10min
  • Serving size: 2
Two hundred years ago, the poor person’s pan bagnat had anchovies and water, while the rich used tuna and olive oil. Now it’s mostly based on which ingredients you prefer. To make the sandwich, you essentially build a summer salad on a French loaf of bread and then wrap and compress it for an hour or so. Try it.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Boule, Baguette, or other crusty bread loaf
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 60 mL (1/4 cup) olive oil
  • 15 mL (1 Tbsp) lemon juice
  • 15 mL (1 Tbsp) red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 large beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes, sliced into 6mm (1/4 in rounds)
  • 1 large green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 3 artichoke hearts, thinly sliced
  • Handful of fresh fava beans
  • 30 g (1 oz) anchovies (preferably stored in oil)
  • 10 black olives
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 12 large basil leaves

STEPS

  1. Place eggs in a small saucepan and cover with cool water. Heat over high heat. As soon as the water comes to a boil, remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 8 minutes.

  2. After 8 minutes, transfer eggs to an ice-water bath. Allow to cool several minutes. Peel and slice crosswise into 6 mm (1/4 in) rounds.

  3. Cut the bread in half lengthwise. Cut the garlic clove in half. Rub the inside of the bread with the garlic. Lay the bread halves on a cutting board with the inside face up.

  4. Shake or stir together the olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing evenly over the bread.

  5. The order in which you assemble the sandwich is up to you. The sandwich pictured was layered in this order: tomatoes, bell pepper, anchovies, artichokes, fava beans, green onion, olives, eggs, and basil leaves. It will feel a bit precarious, especially if you are using an elongated loaf.

  6. Top the sandwich with the upper bread half. Use butcher paper to tightly wrap the sandwich. Keep it tight using a kitchen towel or rubber bands. Let the sandwich sit at room temperature for an hour before serving.

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