If you’ve been lucky enough to have traveled to France, chances are you’ve seen Pan Bagnat scrawled on menu boards, or even eaten this classic sandwich yourself. Translated as “bathed bread” which honestly doesn’t sound that appealing, I’ve learned not to judge a sandwich by its translation!
The sandwich is a Niçoise salad but in sandwich form. Originating from the south of France, the sandwich has the same crossover ingredients, like oil-packed tuna, olives, and tomatoes., but like most classic sandwiches, there are a million variations added to these essential ingredients. Slices of hard-boiled eggs are popular, as are torn pieces of marinated artichoke hearts, leaves of fresh basil, peppery radishes, and slices of crunchy cucumbers.
Anchovies add essential umami, but if you couldn’t possibly think about sliding some onto your sandwich, just smash them into a garlicky vinaigrette and no one will be the wiser - the sandwich will indeed be better for it though. Some folks like to toss the cucumbers in the vinaigrette and have them as a base for the sandwich, but I like to finish assembling the sandwich then pour the vinaigrette over the top of everything then add the top layer of bread. The vinaigrette soaks into the bread, and makes this sandwich next level delicious.
The thing that sets this sandwich apart is the smashing of it. That's right. You get to pile the ingredients on top of one another, and then squish the bread together. At this point you’ll want to wrap the sandwich tightly in foil and it’s imperative that you weigh it down, with either a heavy cast iron skillet, or even a small child. If going the child route, be sure to wrap the foil-wrapped sandwich inside a plastic bag. Do this for about 20 minutes, so that the juices of the ingredients marry together, and the bread becomes moist, or in this case “bathed.”
Choice of bread is super key. You want a crusty country loaf, or ciabatta buns. Something with a chewy crumb but substantial enough in the crust department so that the sandwich doesn’t fall apart and get all soggy. No one likes a soggy sandwich. Ever.
This is a bold, fresh-tasting sandwich that has no shortage of flavour. Be sure to use oil-packed tuna, which just tastes so much better. Tins of this fish are readily available in most supermarkets. It might seem odd to have slices of hard-boiled eggs in the sandwich but the fat from the yolk really helps to balance out the saltiness of the fish and the acidity of the dressing. Slivers of red onion add brightness to the sandwich, and I like the addition of peppery arugula for the same reason.
This is the perfect make-ahead sandwich, ideal for toting along on picnics. Even after the sandwich is wrapped and smashed, it can be refrigerated overnight then eaten for lunch the next day. It’ll be like you’ve taken a trip to the south of France, without the bothersome ticket price and limited carry-on space. Just be sure to pack lots of napkins.