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This French Tuna Sandwich Makes the Perfect Make-Ahead Lunch

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As Food52 gets older (and wiser), and our archive of recipes grows, we’re making the effort to revisit some good-as-gold recipes—like this anchovy, olive-y pièce de résistance from longtime community member Waverly. Whether we’re packing a picnic or a brown bag lunch, this sandwich is the perfect make-ahead masterpiece. After making it again for our latest video, we got back in touch with Waverly to tell us a bit more about her pan bagnat.

I spent a portion of summer after college graduation “backpacking” (we duffle-bagged) through Europe with three of my best friends. We had a detailed itinerary which included a brief two days on the French Rivierra. Somehow, two days stretched to seven—you know how it goes when you’re 22 and joie de vivre rules the brain. Due to budget constraints, we picnicked quite a bit. That is where I first tasted the pan bagnat.

The pan bagnat is the sandwich version of the salade Niçoise. You can find either in various forms all over the Mediterranean coast where it is made with fresh seasonal ingredients.

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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.

Years and many salade Nicoises later, I thought about making a pan bagnat to take to a tailgate. The key is the olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic. It brings all the ingredients together, including the crusty bread. When you make it, be sure to use tuna in olive oil and let the sandwich “rest” overnight so the bread soaks up the vinaigrette flavors.

I still make pan bagnat every summer at the beach. We aren’t in Nice, but it sure tastes like it.

Pan Bagnat: Le French Tuna Salad Sandwich

Pan Bagnat: Le French Tuna Salad Sandwich

Waverly Waverly
Serves 2, but multiplies easily
  • 1/2 loaf crusty French baguette
  • 1 clove garlic, cut in half
  • 4 to 6 basil leaves
  • 1 (6oz) can tuna
  • 3/4 cup 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
  • 1 pinch sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
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What's your favorite sandwich? Share recipes and memories in the comments below!

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Sandwich, Community