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Spanish-Style Pan Bagnat

March 1, 2011

One of the nice things about this wacky British adventure has been the chance to take day trips and see some of the country. I like to bring food along for a few reasons. For one thing, you never know when you might get trapped in a crazy snowstorm and sit on a bus for 5 hours. For another, I’m a cheapskate, and eating out for lunch and dinner really sets off my frugality meter.

Still, on a fun day out, I want something a little special, so I started playing around with pan bagnat.

Traditionally, pan bagnat contains the ingredients of niçoise salad (tuna, eggs, olives, etc.), although I actually first saw this on Cooking at Home with Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. They made an even richer version with brie, olives, anchovies, and a whole lot of olive oil. The whole thing is pressed down overnight to marinate and fuse together. (On a side note, if you have a chance, watch this PBS cooking show; it’s pretty much a cute-overload.)

My version is very loosely Spanish-inspired, with chorizo, green olives and roasted peppers. I figure this way, I can offend both the French and the Spanish by botching their cuisines.

Start with some good bread. I used homemade red onion and basil focaccia, because I just can’t get enough onions in my food. Focaccia works nicely because it’s on the flat side, but I’ve also used baguettes.

I think it helps if the bread is a couple of days old, so it can stand up to the moisture of the filling. “Pan bagnat” means “wet bread,” but you don’t want it to get so soggy that it falls apart.

Whisk together about a tablespoon each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Brush the insides of the bread.

Add a layer of red onions.

Then a layer of chorizo and some roughly-chopped green olives.

The stores here sell chorizo sliced like sandwich meat – it’s pretty fabulous. Maybe they do it stateside as well. Of course, you could easily leave this out for a veggie version – maybe add some cheese and hot peppers to make it spicy.

Roasted red peppers! I roasted some sweet romero peppers. Red or yellow bells would also be great, or the jarred kind.

And, last but not least, some arugula/rocket. I might add a little black pepper as well – the olives and chorizo have more than enough salt to go around.

This looks like a pretty good sandwich, right? Sorry, you don’t get to eat it yet.

This is where it gets a little weird. Wrap it really well in plastic wrap. (My cousin Sarah calls this “death wrapping.”) Place it between two boards or flat objects and weigh it down. In my case this involved a little fridge re-arranging, a bag of sugar and two bags of beans. Leave it overnight.

Usually, if I take this out first thing in the morning and carry it around in a backpack, it’s room-temperature by lunch. Once you stake out a nice park bench, cut the bread into pieces with your pocket knife.

Enjoy the jealous looks of other tourists who are paying through the nose for a hot dog.

Spanish-Style Pan Bagnat

Serves 2

Focaccia or other semi-flat bread, sliced in half horizontally (About 7″ x 9″ for 2 people)
1 tablespoon each olive oil and balsamic vinegar, whisked together
A generous handful each:
Red onions, thinly sliced
Chorizo, thinly sliced
Green olives, roughly chopped
Roasted red peppers (about 2 roasted romero peppers)
Arugula/Rocket
Pepper to taste

1. Brush the insides of the bread with olive oil/vinegar mixture.
2. Layer other ingredients on one half of the bread, adjusting amounts to taste.
3. Cover with other half of bread and wrap sandwich well in plastic wrap.
4. Place between 2 boards in the refrigerator and lay weights on top. (Bags of dense dried goods work well, like rice, sugar or beans.)
5. Let marinate overnight. Before serving, let it come to room temperature and then cut into pieces.

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