‘Tropical’ Weather and Pan-Bagnat

Pan-bagnatLast Friday the temperatures went just a little above 30 degrees Celsius here in the Netherlands. The kind of heat that is very rare for us — shockingly so almost — even in summer.
That unusual weather was all over the news. Scene of children in pools, running through sprinklers, playing with water guns. Full terraces. Parks crowded with half naked sun worshippers. The works. Everybody, of course, (yes, my family included) had to barbecue. The neighbor lady (don’t approve) even kept her kids home from school just so she could set up a pool for them, which is now covered and collecting dust.
We don’t have many of those so-called ‘tropical’ days here, so when we do, we live it up. By the way, I didn’t make up that term. ‘Tropical’ starts at above 40 degrees Celsius as far as I’m concerned. When I lived in New Jersey, that was the norm from May until October. No one ever called that ‘tropical’.
On those rare Dutch ‘tropical’ days, nothing beats a proper picnic for lunch. Fresh fruit, some olives, perhaps a nice hard cheese, bread, a terrine… I can think of so many things loved by that insulated pink picnic bag of mine. But one of my favorite treats is a French pan-bagnat.

Pan-bagnat, which basically means ‘wet bread’ is a specialty of Nice. And no, it really isn’t pain (French word for ‘bread’), but pan (in the local Provençal language). The deliciously robust sandwich is made up of some of the ingredients found in a traditional salade niçoise: anchovies, olives, tomatoes and eggs. Though there’s nothing stopping you from using your imagination and experimenting with other ingredients. Actually, that gives me an idea. In part two of this post, I’ll share another great version. Stay tuned.
The beauty of this sandwich is thatthe longer it sits, the better it gets. With time, the flavors get a chance to develop and seep into the bread, infusing it with loads of taste.
I recommend that you make the sandwich early in the morning and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to go (or serve, but to me this really is made for a picnic). Then, just toss it in the cooler along with some fresh fruit and a bottle of rosé. Enjoy.

Tip: When making the dressing, go easy on the salt! The rest of the ingredients are pretty salty on their own.

Pan-Bagnat
Serves 4

  • 1 round loaf of bread (I like to use pain de campagne)
  • 3 tbsps good-quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • salt (preferably fleur de sel) and freshly-cracked pepper
  • 1-2 medium tomatoes, or enough to cover the surface of the cut bread, sliced
  • 1 small shallot, very thinly sliced
  • 1 small can of anchovies in olive oil
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
  • 10 black olives, halved
  • 1 tbsp chopped capers
  • chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • salad leaves of your choice

Cut the bread in half. Make a dressing by whisking together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, pressed garlic clove, salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing over both bread halves. Begin by layering the tomato and shallot on the bread. Follow with the anchovies, eggs, olives, capers and parsley. Layer a few leaves of salad on top of the ingredients, close the sandwich and cut it into four pieces. Wrap the cut sandwich tightly in two layers of aluminium foil. I like to put the packed sandwich on a plate and then weigh it down with something heavy. Allow the sandwich to rest for at least three hours. Serve at room temperature.

 

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