Pan Bagnat

You may have realized by now that most of my food love comes from what I experienced growing up as a child. I have too many “food memories” to count – but I remember them all – sharing simple meals with family and friends, savoring flavours, experiencing new texture (some of them still not my favourite, such as mushrooms – bleeah), inhaling aromas, and enjoying it all mixed together.

Pan Bagnat is one of those memory-evoking foods for me. Pan Bagnat (in Francais: bathed bread) was a meal my parents frequently made for a simple weeknight meal, and I was always in the kitchen ready to slice the vegetables, drizzle the olive oil, wrap the finished product in paper and then “smoosh” the loaf for several hours under a cutting board topped with my dad’s toolbox – really! Ah, the memories!

I never knew until recently, as I was doing some sleuthing on the origins of Pan Bagnat, that it is traditionally made with tuna. As most of my family are vegetarians (or in my case, poultry-a-tarians), we improvised and found our sustinence through our veggie improv.

The recipe we always used can be found in Moosewood Restaraunt Cooks At Home, a wonderful cookbook hosting healthy, natural recipes that are simple to prepare and satisfactory to serve to any dinner guest. I spent much of my ‘cookbook lurking’ time in this book from my mom’s shelf, and just a few days ago, received my very own copy in the mail from…you guessed it, my dad and mom. They could not have found a better birthday gift if they combed the world over! I was thrilled to receive it, and was anxious to crack it open to my favourite and make it for my own family.

For this “portable Salad Nicoise“, here is what you need:

1 baguette or any loaf of good crusty French bread
2 garlic cloves, pressed
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
4 slices smoked provolone or meunster cheese
1/2 english cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1/4-1/2 cup chopped black olives (or calamata)

Optional Ingredients:
2 hard boiled eggs, thinly sliced
1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup roasted red peppers
anchovies
parmesan cheese
1 cup artichoke hearts, sliced
pepperoncini peppers
1/2 cup pesto
fresh herbs: basil, thyme, oregano, etc.
arugula or spinach leaves

Slice the bread in half lengthwise and remove just a little of the inside to make a “well” on the bottom half.
On both halves, drizzle olive oil, add salt and pepper and spread garlic.

From this point on, it is completely up to you, the order and type of ingredients you layer here. The variation I made this time went as follows:
Spread a little pesto on the top half and then add 4 slices provolone over that. On the bottom half, layer grated parmesan cheese, spinach and arugula leaves, fresh chopped thyme, cucumbers and red bell peppers, red onions, pepperoncinis, tomatoes and and extra drizzle of olive oil and S&P.

Add the two halves together and wrap tightly first in wax paper and then plastic wrap or foil.

Here comes the fun part: As instructed in the Moosewood Cookbook, “Weight the full length of the Pan Bagnat with a heavy book (or with a baking tray topped with bricks, a 25-pound weight, a toddler, or whatever you can find) for 1 to 3 hours.”

And, “aussitôt dit aussitôt fait” – no sooner said than done!
(how did i do, bea, on my francais?)

We enjoyed this as a picnic dinner in our living room (we even laid out the picnic blanket!) with pickles, homemade baked potato crisps and some amaretto sours.
Another memory made from the kitchen, and well enjoyed.

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8 thoughts on “Pan Bagnat

  1. ah! you’re killing me with the amaretto sours, haha! make sure you drink some water each day too, ok?

    lol.

    that sandwich sounds/looks awesome! i want one now! *stomach growls*

  2. I absolutely adore pan bagnats! Although in all the years of making them, I’ve never been able to hold out long enough for the weighting/squishing step.

  3. The question is— how do you STAY so inspired to cook all these different things all the time? Maybe if I wasn’t cooking for Life101 I would find more inspiration… right now, I live vicariously through your efforts.
    Have a great day!
    Nora

  4. GREAT sandwiches … it’s too bad that both the “plate” and “portable” versions aren’t exactly “quick” … but still worthwhile. I make Nicoise salad only one, maybe twice, in a summer.

  5. Gosh I have not had a Pan bagnat in so long!!! Gorgeous looking! Thanks for the reminder! I will have to make some as my hubbie probably never had one before!! And he will love them!

  6. thanks everybody! this is such an easy meal to prepare, and yes, it does take some patience while waiting for the “smooshing” to be done…but so worth it!

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