Friday, May 11, 2012

Pan Bagnat

Sandwiches have always been one of my favorite foods.  They've become even more popular recently with the proliferation of food trucks serving a wide variety of hand-held foods from around the globe.   I've tried to broaden my horizons by trying  some of the great and famous sandwiches of the world.  As my first choice in a new occasional series of famous sandwiches, I chose the Pan Bagnat which is the specialty of Nice, France.  It incorporates many of the flavors of a Nicoise Salad (also a specialty of Nice) into a tuna sandwich that's completely different from your normal tuna/mayo mixture.  The Pan Bagnat has no mayo - it has an olive oil vinaigrette instead - and has lots of vegetables in addition to tuna and hard boiled eggs.  Everything is placed in crusty french rolls or baguettes and allowed sit for several hours before eating so the juices soak into and soften the bread, the onions can mellow and the flavors meld together.

I chose the Pan Bagnat for several reasons.  First, I love tuna sandwiches.  Second, this sandwich is actually pretty healthy with Omega 3's in the olive oil plus all the veggies.  Finally, it's picnic season and this sandwich is just perfect for picnics since it has no mayo and should be made well in advance of eating. (I just love a picnic dinner at a concert in the park.  If you're quiet about it you can even sneak in a bottle of wine to go with the sandwiches.) If you have a picnic for two, use individual french rolls or mini-baguettes as I did.  If you have more people, use a full-size baguette and cut into pieces prior to serving.

The only drawback to this sandwich is the name.  I took French in high school with limited results, but one thing I noticed was that French words sometimes have letters that are completely absent in the pronunciation.  For example, you pronounce Pan Bagnat as pahn bahn-yah.  So what happend to the "g" and the "t"?  French is sneaky that way.  If nothing else, you can impress people with your pronunciation the next time you order one in a bistro.

A note about the tuna - water pack or oil pack?  Yes, water pack tuna is lower in calories.  It also has less taste.  My personal preference is to use oil pack tuna for special recipes where tuna is a star and use water pack for everything else.  I used oil pack tuna here but the choice is up to you.

* * click here for a printable recipe version * *

Pan Bagnat
Makes 4 servings

Note: you may find it easier to place the ingredients in the top half of the bread rather than the bottom half because the top is typically deeper and will cradle them better.

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 baguette or 4 french rolls
½ English cucumber, sliced
1 tomato, thinly sliced
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
12 ounces canned tuna packed in oil or water, drained and crumbled
8 basil leaves
4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
½ cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced

Whisk together the red wine vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Gradually add the olive oil while whisking to form an emulsion. Add the cucumbers to the vinaigrette and toss to coat. Set aside.

Slice the baguette (or rolls) horizontally into 2 pieces. Tear out some of the soft bread in the center of each side, being careful not to tear the crust. Place the ingredients on one half of the bread in the following order: half the cucumbers, tomato, onion, tuna, basil, eggs, olives, then the other half of the cucumber slices. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the vegetables, top with the second piece of bread, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate for up to 6 hours.

Cut the baguette into four pieces and serve.

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