Pan bagnat: the ultimate picnic sandwich ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

05 June 2013

Pan bagnat: the ultimate picnic sandwich

pan bagnat

It's June. You know what that means: it's officially picnic season.

Picnic food is one of my favorite genres. (Does food have genres? Sure, why not?) Who doesn't want to cram a big basket or tote bag with a stack of sandwiches, several containers of salad, a big bag of fresh fruit, and a bottle of wine, iced tea, or lemonade, and swan off to the park for a sunny afternoon? Okay, I admit that we actually set up camp in the fullest possible shade, but still.

So let's make sandwiches! More precisely, let's make one sandwich: a huge, delightful pan bagnat.

Pan bagnat simply means "bathed bread" in Occitan. (And if you've never heard of that--well, I had heard the French term "langue d'Oc" before, but that's it. It's a language spoken in the Occitanian region, which spreads over southern France, Monaco, and some bits of Italy and Spain.) Pan bagnat is essentially a giant sandwich: a whole loaf of bread filled with fresh vegetables and their juices, anointed with olive oil, and pressed under a weight before eating. This gives all the flavors the chance to meld together into something delicious and beautiful. When it's time to eat, just slice off as much as you want and go.

If you are concerned about sogginess--which seems totally normal, considering that this is called "bathed bread," don't be. Our sandwiches were deliciously juicy on the inside, but the juices did not penetrate the crust overnight: perfect.

Needless to say, pan bagnat is one of the best picnic foods ever invented. Let's make one!

The number of servings here really depend on the size of your loaf of bread. We could have served six people pretty comfortably with ours, especially with salads or fruit on the side.

pan bagnat

Pan bagnat

A whole flat loaf of bread (Acme bakery herbslab for us)
basil leaves
butter lettuce
green onion
red pepper
havarti (or your choice of cheese)
olive oil
dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Slice your loaf of bread into two thin halves, using a serrated bread knife. It's easiest to put the bread flat on a board and cut into it from the side while you hold the loaf steady with the palm of your hand--sort of like cutting a cake layer into two.

Open up your loaf and start piling on the fillings. Start by drizzling olive oil over each side and spreading on some dijon mustard. Then just layer on all the vegetables and cheese you desire. We used everything in the ingredient list, but feel free to use whatever else sounds good to you. Season the whole thing with salt and pepper before you close it up.

To make your pan bagnat vegan, just leave out the cheese. Super easy!

Wrap your loaf securely in aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Put it in the refrigerator and weight it down overnight, or for at least four hours. We put a cutting board topped with a cast-iron dutch oven half full of water on top of our pan bagnat, and it worked admirably.

When you're ready to eat--perhaps after transporting your pan bagnat to the picnic grounds at the very bottom of the picnic basket, with your containers of salads and bottles of wine still pressing it together--simply unwrap and cut off slices to eat. You can go for long, thin sandwiches (toothpicks come in handy here) or cut wider slices and then halve them (no toothpicks necessary). It's all good.

pan bagnat

Now have your picnic! Eat your sandwich, lounge in the sun, drink some wine, break out the frisbee, wiggle your toes in the grass--it's all good.

What's your favorite picnic food?


Michelle said...

It's like a cold panino, full of vegetables. Love it!

I love picnics so much. We like to go grab meats and cheeses and simple vegetables, and head to the nearby rose garden and eat. Wine is (totally not) optional.

Stacy G. said...

This looks great! I need to make it. Can't wait for the first good slicing tomatoes to ripen in our yard so I can.

Monet said...

Yes. Now all I want is a sandwich, some sunshine and a picnic blanket. This looks LOVELY. All the colors and flavors and textures just sing! Thank you for sharing it with us. I hope you have a good end to your week!

Purabi Naha | Cosmopolitan Currymania said...

tasty sandwich recipes are always a keeper, especially in a house with fussy-eater kids. Wonderful!

Eileen said...

Hooray for picnic food--so glad you guys like it! I have to say, we're absolutely planning another picnic for this weekend because the initial sandwich experience was so good. Ha!

Joanne said...

Big, over-stuffed sandwiches are just perfect for picnics! And when they're French, it makes it that much more delicious, methinks!

Hannah said...

Yes! I'm officially making a mid-year resolution to have more picnics. They're the best way to enjoy summer, if you ask me. I love having snack picnics involving cookies or little cakes.

Helene Dsouza said...

hmm I haven't had a Pan bagnat in ages. It used to be my favorite and somehow I had completely forgotten about it. Must have been the Asian fog disturbing my mind. haha!

Thank you for the little reminder, I am ready to take a bite! =D

~~louise~~ said...

Hi Eileen!
When I got a glimpse of your post over at Helene's I just had to pop in to see what was on the picnic menu. Delighted I did. This sandwich sounds just perfect to bring on a picnic!

Thank you so much for sharing...

P.S. You are more than welcome to join us in celebrating International Picnic Day on my blog. If you want to play, I'll be posting the game rules on June 18th, International Picnic Day!

elizabeth ranger (bubbleteafordinner) said...

I looooove picnic food! It's my favourite thing ever! Just like road trip food. I made a pan bagnat once for a road trip, and, just like you said, it stays juicy and sliceable and easy to eat all day.

Oh oh oh, have you ever heard of a shooter's sandwich? It's an Edwardian stuffed/pressed sandwich filled with steak and mushrooms, but it could be filled with almost anything else!

Anonymous said...

Do hotdogs count as picnic foods? 'Cause they're totally a summer favorite. Love the idea of these sandwiches! But I have a feeling good crusty bread is essential to avoiding sogginess, and that's just hard to find around here. Someday I'll find the free time and patience to try making my own...

Eileen said...

Now I want just about everything you guys mentioned! I have never heard of that shooter's sandwich, but DANG. I would definitely eat it. And hot dogs are totally heritage food for me--street food, so not exactly picnic food, but still. Hey, Central Park is a valid picnic location, right?

Unknown said...

I love that you can make this overnight, and the colors are just exquisite. Yum!

erin said...

I am salivating over this, and kicking myself that it's not summer here in Australia (which is something I don't generally do - I love winter). This looks absolutely incredible. In terms of picnics, I usually focus on desserts for afterwards - a good chocolate chip cookie never goes out of season!