Pan Bagnat: Le French Tuna Salad Sandwich

By • September 26, 2010 • 96 Comments


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Author Notes: The pan bagnat is the sandwich version of the salad Nicoise. You can find either in various forms all over the Mediterranean coast where it is made with fresh seasonal ingredients. Here, olive oil packed canned tuna is mixed with olives, red onions, fresh herbs, and vinaigrette. The salad fills the center of a crusty French baguette. In this case "crusty" is the operative word. The bread must have a hard crust on the outside otherwise it will fall apart. Pan Bagnat literally translated is "wet bread" - the point is for the vinaigrette to soak into the bread. In my opinion, THAT is what makes this such a great sandwich. - Waverly Waverly

Food52 Review: Pan Bagnat, literally "bathed bread," is a great solution to the brown bag lunch dilemma, and Waverly's version is pitch-perfect. A decidedly Nicoise tuna salad is pressed between two garlic and oil slicked halves of a baguette and left in the fridge overnight, which allows all of the juices to soak into the bread. We chose to include both of the optional ingredients -- crisp green beans, briny artichoke hearts -- and were glad we did. The resulting sandwich was a glorious riot of colors, flavors and textures. - A&MA&M

Serves 2, but multiplies easily

  • 1/2 loaf crusty French baguette
  • 1 clove garlic, cut in half
  • 4-6 basil leaves
  • 1 (6oz) can tuna
  • 3/4 cups Nicoise or Kalamata olives, sliced
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 jar or can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 cup blanched French green beans, sliced into thirds (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. PREP THE BREAD: Slice the loaf of bread in half lengthwise. Remove some of the insides of the bottom half to create a trough into which the filling will go. Brush both halves with a little extra virgin olive oil. Rub each with the garlic. Line the half with the trough with the basil leaves.
  2. MIX THE SALAD: In a mixing bowl, combine the tuna, olives, red bell pepper, onion, parsley, artichoke hearts (if using) and green beans (if using). In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk the lemon juice into the olive oil until it is emulsified/combined. Pour the vinaigrette into the tuna mixture and stir to combine. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.
  3. ASSEMBLE: Spoon tuna mixture into the trough of the baguette over the basil leaves. Wrap sandwich well in plastic. Crush it down by placing a brick or heavy cast iron skillet and refrigerate, preferably with the weight, overnight.
  4. SERVE: In the morning, cut sandwich in half. Enjoy for lunch at home or wrap in foil and brown bag it (use a lunch box that will keep the sandwich chilled). Serve with cubes of feta cheese and a tart Granny Smith apple.

Tags: brown bag lunch, Canned tuna, picnic, savory, serves a crowd, tuna salad

Comments (96) Questions (2)

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4 days ago mary

YES! This was such a refreshing sandwich. I may never use mayo and mustard on tuna fish salad again. This was my submission today for my favorite weekday go-to lunch... http://food52.com/blog...?

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18 days ago ECMotherwell

This is DELICIOUS! Wonderful when you're impatient and eat it right after preparation; even better the following day.

Stringio

27 days ago kimberly.godwin

I made this last Sunday night for lunch on Monday. I have to say, it was sooooo good. My guy even called me to say that was one of the best lunches I've even given him. I think this is also good without the bread. (I'm not the biggest bread eater.) Next time I might just make the 'filling' as it's own meal. Total keeper recipe!

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30 days ago Yodamom

I love this sandwich, it's the perfect picnic food. Thank you !

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about 1 month ago Barb

I make an easier variation of this that was inspired by Alton Brown's version, he adds boiled egg which I find really good on this. My variation uses prepared olive tapenade (I like Trader Joes's) and a little extra vinaigrette, and I save some carbs and calories by wrapping it in a thin pita bread lined first with a large leaf of romaine. You lose the dressing sinking into the bread but it's a great everyday lunch. I usually add onions, tomatoes, red peppers, and a bunch of crushed red pepper.

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about 1 month ago Waverly

That sounds quick and easy, Barb. I will give the olive tapenade and pita bread a try. Thanks!

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2 months ago Cinnamin

Love the tip about scooping out a little from the bottom half! Hadn't thought of it before. NYT's Melissa Clark of A Good Appetite also has a niece tutorial http://www.nytimes.com...

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2 months ago alin

wow! even my husband loved it...we served it open faced on toast.

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3 months ago gduncan757

Where's the tuna? When I read the recipe it looked like there was very little tuna in proportion to the other ingredients. I did not have a six ounce can so I used two five ounce cans instead and prepared this according to the recipe. I made it last night and waited until this afternoon before trying it. Overall, I love the recipe but I will do it a little differently the next time. 3/4 cup of kalamata olives is too much and the taste over powers the other flavors. I believe 1/3 or 1/4 cup should be enough. Half of a small onion is vague so I used 1/4 cup. The olive oil/lemon juice dressing (9 tablespoons) makes this very wet and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice is too much, making the tuna a little sour. I think 1 tablespoon of lemon juice with 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil will be plenty. I added the green beans and will do a little more than 1/4 cup the next time. I love garlic so instead of rubbing it on the bread I minced the clove and put it in the tuna. I look forward to making this again.

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8 months ago Karen Weintrob

Nicoise Salad on a Baguette....what could be better!

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9 months ago Katie

I rode a bullet train from Provence to Paris one summer, leaving my stage (bakery internship) in the south of France to see the finish of the Tour de France. I was given a pan bagnat for the journey. It's juicy flavors in delicious bread will be in my memory forever!

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10 months ago Sarah Beall

Wow, keeping this recipe. Made this for a summer evening dinner after playing a tennis match. Doubled the recipe and put it together on a ciabatta loaf and it easily fed the four of us. Everyone was licking their plates to get the last bits and pieces that fell out of their sandwich.

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10 months ago rapearson

this was delicious! I don't usually like tuna very much but I sure like it in this sandwich! I made a double batch to take camping this weekend and it kept well in the cooler.

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11 months ago walkie74

I made this for a desert camping trip and my friends ate themselves silly. The vegetarians got a non tuna version, while the omnivores got the regular one. Everyone loved it! Thanks for the recipe!

Carriepin

11 months ago Carrie Vandelac

What a great way to spice up the classic tuna salad sandwich. I never thought about adding artichoke hearts. Mmm!

Stringio

12 months ago Holden Christopher

Oh My Gosh! This was so good! I ran into a time delay and couldn't do the smash/refrigerater part in time for dinner. I took the Granny Smith apple suggestion a step further and sliced them thin lengthwise and added them to the salad.

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12 months ago Waverly

I am so glad you enjoyed it. I have not tried it with an apple but that sounds good.

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about 1 year ago Epiphfoodny

I added preserved lemon and used its pulp in the dressing. Roasted red peppers instead of raw. Skipped the beans. Excellent!

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about 1 year ago aquarius

Great idea to use preserved lemon. Will try!

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about 1 year ago Elm

This was so good I didn't want the sandwich to end! Great Job!

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over 1 year ago EmilyC

Made this for the DC area potluck...so, so good! I love the fact that the sandwich can be entirely made and wrapped up the night before. And as good as it is in sandwich form, the tuna salad on its own is great too!

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over 1 year ago teamom

Hello all,
I've just made this sandwich (yum!), and thought that I'd add my "thoughts and tweeks" -
there are no (real) french baguettes to be had where I live, so I made this sandwich with a "small" sourdough round. This recipe makes enough for two 6" (14 cm) loaves. Sourdough added a chewey nuance, but a nice one, and seemed to keep its crisp well.
I used a 5 oz. can of Genove tuna packed in oil (didn't someone already recommend this? Absolutely worth the extra money), but strained the oil, and used it instead of the olive oil in the vinagrette. As well, instead of a fresh red onion, I used pickled red onion (that I'd put up - very simple), and some of the liquid instead of the lemon juice. Both intensifed the flavours of the ingredients.
A question - the recipe calls for a small jar or can of artichoke hearts. What is that, weight-wise, please? I opened a larger can of artichokes, and only used two hearts, but that was plenty.
One can put a spin on this by substituting coriander for the parsley, and subbing sharper peppers for the red one.
p.s. if one would like to add eggs and/or potatoes, please do. So much the better if they, too were already pickled.....but I think that is of the same school of thought as to whether one puts sausage in the turkey stuffing/dressing or not.

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over 1 year ago MaureenOnTheCape

Thank you for this incredible idea Waverly! I was actually looking for something to eat now so I made two; one for tomorrow sitting under the heavy bacon press, and another to grill and eat immediately and it was delicious. I also like the other cook's suggestion to use the leftover mixture for a pasta topping. This is a terrific use of pantry ingredients. You really have a hit on your hands.

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over 1 year ago Waverly

I am glad you enjoyed the pan bagnat. It is one of my personal favorites and I agree with the other cooks here that you can change things up to your taste. The tuna salad without the bread is awesome too.