Friday, October 7, 2011

Foodie Fridays: Pan Bagnet

As someone who grew up Catholic in a land-locked state, fish was an inevitable part of Fridays during Lent. While there were some excellent meals, the unremitting cycle of shrimp, catfish, and tuna soon got the better of me, and by the time Easter came around, we were excited if only because Friday meals would be less predictable. I particularly resented the tuna sandwiches, which were heavy on the mayo and seemed to lack any taste beyond the fish's saltiness. While I will still make the occasional tuna sandwich, it is usually the result of desperation rather than any real culinary craving.

With these mayo-heavy tuna bombs in mind, I approached Melissa Clark's pan bagnat recipe with some trepidation. The mayo-less combination of tuna, tomatoes, vinaigrette, and basil sounded yummy, but I was still uncertain. However, with some beautiful heirloom tomatoes from the farmer's market (the last of the season) taunting me, I knew that it was now or never: I had to try this recipe before it was too late and the summer's tomatoes were replaced with hothouse versions that are essentially red tennis balls.

A quick trip to the grocery store allowed me to gather the needed ingredients, and after 30 minutes of chopping, whisking, and flattening, the sandwich was done. And it was amazing! Far from the tuna sandwiches of my youth, this sandwich featured a combination of flavors and textures. Better still, the sandwich kept wonderfully in the fridge and was just as tasty the next day.

Pan Bagnat (Slightly adapted from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark)

Time: 15 minutes plus 20 minutes weighting
  • 1 very small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I used the oil drained from the tuna)
  • 1 8-inch round very crusty country loaf, or small ciabatta, halved
  • 1 medium-sized, ripe tomato, sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 can olive oil-packed tuna, drained (see the note above regarding the oil)
  • 6-8 large basil leaves
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly.
  2. If using a country loaf, pull out some of the soft interior crumb to form a cavity. (If using a ciabatta, you won’t need to eliminate anything.)
  3. Spread half the tomato slices out on the bottom of the bread loaf. Top with some vinaigrette, then with the onion slices, tuna, basil leaves, and more tomato. Top this with remaining vinaigrette. Cover with the second bread half and firmly press the sandwich together.
  4. Wrap the sandwich tightly in foil, waxed paper or plastic wrap, then place in a plastic bag. Put the sandwich under a weight such as a cast iron frying pan topped with a filled kettle. 
  5. Weight the sandwich for 7 to 10 minutes, then flip and weight it for another 7 to 10 minutes. 
  6. Unwrap, slice, and serve immediately, or keep it wrapped for up to 8 hours before serving.