In a sense, to smush, press, or mash a sandwich could feel redundant but it’s not. It is a tool employed to make certain kinds of sandwiches better. Case in point, a Cuban, panini, a shooter’s sandwich, and pan bagnat.
I love all these sandwiches. Classics, each and everyone.
In the heat of summer, I rely on the pan bagnat, which when translated means bathed bread. It is a vegetable based sandwich from the south of France, it is light and I find it refreshing. Often the ingredients list is patterned after a Salad Nicoise subbing in anchovies for the tuna. For me I like to use omega-3 oil rich sardines but use whatever tinned fish you fancy.
The sandwich is built in layers, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and then some sort of weight is put on top of it. At my house the sandwich gets sandwiched between sheet trays and the milk and juice jugs set on top compress it. Because the sandwich is lightly salted and weighted after a couple of hours under pressure a lot of liquid is released only to be soaked back up by the bread.
And that’s the genius of this sandwich. In my experience it never gets soggy but instead it becomes meltingly tender, the juices mingle, and in the end this makes for a perfect sandwich on a hot summer day.
Pan Bagnat (makes 1 sandwich)
a 6-inch (15.25cm) piece of French baguette
1 tin skinless, bonleless, sardines in oil
1 small cucumber, peeled
1 medium sized tomato, sliced
5 or 6 thinly sliced red onion rings, skin removed
8 picholine olives or olive of you choice
fresh ground black pepper
- Slice the baguette in half lengthwise. On one piece of the bread coat the interior with mayonnaise. On the other spread out a tablespoon or two of salsa verde.
- Using the peeler, peel thin strips of cucumber, 10 or more of them. Lay them in an even layer across the salsa verde side. Give the cucumbers a sprinkle of salt.
- Top the cucumber with the sardines, on top of the sardines lay out the tomatoes. Season the tomatoes with a sprinkle of salt and fresh ground black pepper.
- Top the tomato with red onion. Place the olives onto the mayonnaise so they stick.
- Place the olive/mayonnaise bread on top of the sandwich. Wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and then either place a brick on top, a sheet tray with weight, something heavy. Let the sandwich remain weighted for at least three hours to overnight.
- To serve remove the plastic wrap, slice on the diagonal, and serve with a glass of chilled dry white wine.
While it is not ever my first choice, hydrating droopy vegetables is worth the effort if your vegetables aren’t too far gone. I am not talking about trying to save rancid moldy vegetables but rather the carrots I bought yesterday that were crisp, fresh and gorgeous but somehow, within a 24 hour span in the fridge, have gone wilty, maybe even beyond wilty but nowhere near rotten.
It pains me to throw out food. Generally I would make a stock with vegetables like this just to use them up but I was really counting on this particular gorgeous bunch carrots for dinner. I wanted to roast them in a high heat oven, taste their sugary goodness alongside a perfect roast chicken, but not now. At the end of an hour in a hot oven they would be nothing but mush. Continue reading