This was the frequent lunch of my lean student years. Like a true hero, it’s a giant sandwich sliced into serving portions. It is also made in single serving rolls, as in the above picture, on solo dining nights.
It literally means “wet bread”. A provençale street food, it is prepared using crusty bread, and soaking both sides of the bread with olive oil and vinegar, then layering the sandwich ingredients: Very much like a Salade Niçoise in a sandwich.
Le Sandwich Tunisien:
To me, Sandwich Tunisien looks and tastes like Pan Bagnat’s twin. OK, maybe with more harissa slathered on it. We loved the spin the little joint in the Paris’s Latin Quarter put on it. Diced potatoes in a sandwich? It sure stuck to our ribs. No seating, strictly street food. We used to pile in a couple times a week. For less than a dollar, we chomped down on it, standing, and let it drip down our elbows: a nourishing complete meal overlaid with our beloved North African flavors.
The Soaked Sandwich
The fun part of Pan Bagnat is that the longer it sits, the more delicious. The crusted sides soak up the oil and get tender and pliable. The sandwich gets wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and weighed down to compress it. If time allows, make it even a few hours before serving: Perfect for picnics!
The recipe for Pan Bagnat is quite elastic:
I will start with my favorite, and list all variations. I love to make it in one long loaf, then slice the sandwich loaf into servings, like a hero sandwich.
Pick Your Bread Smartly!
You want a bread that stands up to the soaking, even while keeping all the abundant filling in. More crust, less crumb. Baguette is somewhat too narrow but it could work. Italian bread, ciabatta, sourdough loaf all work great. For personal pan bagnat sandwiches, Italian bread rolls or other crusty rolls will be perfect.
- 2 7-ounce cans tuna in oil
- 2 tablespoons wine vinegar
- 3-4 tablespoons harissa or sriracha
- 1 long ciabatta bread
- 1 beefsteak tomato, sliced thin
- 6-8 leaves romaine, shredded
- very thinly sliced red onion
- 3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced thin
- 1/2 cup pitted niçoise olives
- 2/3 cooked diced potato, optional
- 3-4 tablespoons capers
Drain the tuna cans into a bowl. Mix the tuna oil with the vinegar and the harissa
Butterfly the ciabatta across its whole length, leaving the two sides attached at the center.
Smear the insides of the loaf with the oil-vinegar mixture, using it all up.
Layer the sandwich: tuna, tomato, lettuce, eggs, olives, potatoes, capers.
Close the sandwich firmly, and wrap it neatly and tightly with plastic wrap. Put it in the refrigerator, and weigh it down with cans to compress it. If time allows, let it rest a few hours.
To serve the Pan Bagnat:
Unwrap carefully, and slice it into serving pieces with a sharp serrated knife. You will get 6 to 8 servings.
Variations and additions:
- Use sardines, herring or anchovies instead of tuna. And if you don't want a fish sandwich, use goat cheese or brie for a dairy sandwich, or sliced chicken breast for a meat sandwich (in this case, use 3-4 tablespoons bottled olive oil)
- Add basil leaves
- Use artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, gherkins, pickled hot peppers etc...