Pain Bagnat – The Perfect French Picnic
After last week’s post on Salade Nicoise, we take a merry little detour to Pain Bagnat (literally translated: Wet Bread) which is that same Salade Nicoise, layered in a day-old sourdough roll, wrapped tight, put in the cooler overnight and the back of the car in the morning for the perfect picnic a la Provencal.
Pain Bagnat is the epitome of a poor man’s meal. “Men just released from prison would buy day old bread with what little money they had, then steal vegetables from the local gardens, wrap it in a cloth and eat it the next day when the bread was soft” French countryside lore, compliments of our resident Frenchman (my betrothed), Chef B.
Food Gypsy Editor, Astrid DesLandes who hails from Marseille in the South of France, remembers fondly days at the beach as a child with a tinfoil wrapped Pain Bagnat “this way there was no need for plates, we could happily eat on a beach towel with sand everywhere.”
The popular version of this sandwich contains cold, boiled potatoes, hard boiled eggs, cooked beans, fresh peppers, radishes, tomatoes & red onion, black olives, topped with a light vinaigrette and with anchovies, tuna and a layer of soft leaved lettuce. Think potato salad, heavy on the veg, served on chewy sourdough bread.
It’s the perfect cold meal and makes great picnic food because everything is cooked, it contains no mayo and so it’s completely safe, and wickedly good. Each bite offers different flavours, salty, smooth, creamy, olive, potato, bean, egg, mmmm, anchovy.
Like our Salade Nicoise, we’ve used the anchovy in the vinaigrette to make it a little more palatable to North American tastes. If you love a nice, salty anchovy, add a layer!
Pan Bagnat Recipe
4 sourdough rolls, sub sized (day old optional)
1 large head of Boston lettuce
1/2 lb. green beans, cooked, chopped
1/2 lb. yellow beans, cooked, chopped
2-3 ripe red tomatoes, chopped
170 gm. can of chunk tuna, drained & flaked
4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and cut in quarters
1/2 cup olives
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
6 large radishes, thinly sliced & chopped
8-10 new potatoes, boiled & chilled
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Make ahead: Boil and chill the potatoes and eggs, peel both and reserve cold. Boil and chill beans. (Perfect for leftovers.)
Be sure the lettuce has been washed dried well, then rest it in a moist paper towel in the fridge until ready to use.
In a large bowl mix potatoes, egg, beans, red pepper, onion, pepper, radishes and tomato into a large bowl. Add the olives, pitted and cut (or broken by hand) into pieces. Season with salt & pepper, but go easy on the salt as you have both olives & anchovies to add salt in Pain Bagnat. Toss with vinaigrette (below) and reserve until needed.
French Mustard Vinaigrette Recipe
1 1/2 shallots, finely minced
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 teaspoons anchovy paste
1/3 cup light salad oil (i.e. sunflower oil)
In a separate bowl add shallots, mustard, red wine vinegar, anchovy paste and seasoning. Whisk lightly. Slowly add oil, drizzling a little at a time, whisking to blend and emulsify into a smooth, cohesive dressing. The dressing should easily cling to your finger when dipped instead of slipping off due to the oil remaining on the top.
Cut your bread in half. With a knife or the tips of your fingers scoop out the centre of the bread to make a hollow. Cut garlic clove in half and rub on the inside to the bread to impart flavour, then brush a little olive oil over the garlic, to further moisten the bread. Scoop prepared salad into the roll, pressing down lightly to help it stick together and compress. Top with tuna (*anchovies optional*) and a layer of Boston lettuce.
Wrap tightly, rolling and compressing in a sleeve of tinfoil, and refrigerate until it’s time to head to the beach, the park, the cottage… for picnic time!