Pan bagnat

Pan bagnat sandwich from Nice

This quintessential sandwich from Nice conjures the Mediterranean with its sunny combination of tomatoes, tuna, anchovies, green pepper, hard-boiled egg, black olives, radishes, olive oil and basil. It’s a healthy sandwich, effectively a meal in itself, and it’s easy to make, but you do need one more key ingredient: the bread.

A pan bagnat roll is crusty on the outside, tender on the inside, with a slight olive oil tang. It’s about the size of a jumbo hamburger bun, but the similarity ends there. As an authentic pan bagnat roll can be hard to find if you’re not actually in Nice, what is to be done? The closest substitute I can think of is the Kaiser roll — sans poppy or other seeds. You could also try pita. Or — why not? — a baguette or another type of French bread.

As for the other ingredients, locals use the Nice olive (olive niçoise), a small brine-cured black olive that can also be hard to find. The best substitutes are Greek salt-cured (wrinkly) or brine-cured (smooth) olives. And for best results, choose oil-packed tuna.

The quantities below will make 1 sandwich. Multiply as desired.

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
fresh basil
1 egg
1 green pepper
1 tomato
2 radishes
1 green onion
1 small tin tuna (3 oz / 80 g)
4-5 black olives, pitted
2 anchovy fillets
1 pan bagnat roll or similar roll
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the olive oil and garlic halves in a small dish. Snip in some basil. Set aside.

Place the egg in a pan of cold water. Bring to a boil. Cook for 8 minutes. Remove from heat and immerse the egg in cold water for easy peeling.

While the egg is cooking, slice 3-4 thin rounds from the green pepper and the tomato — you can save what’s left over for another use. Slice the radishes into thin rounds. Slice the green onion in half lengthwise, then cut into 2-inch (5 mm) sections.

Transfer the tuna to a small bowl, breaking it up with a fork. Remove the garlic from the olive oil. Drizzle 1 tbsp. of the oil over the tuna. Mix.

When the egg has cooled, peel it and slice into thin rounds. Have the olives and anchovies standing by. You are now ready to assemble your sandwich.

Cut the roll in half crosswise, with the bottom half a bit thicker than the top half. If you like you can leave a ‘hinge’ by not cutting clear through, so that the two halves remain attached.

Scoop out a bit of the bottom half’s soft white center to create a ‘cup’. Drizzle both halves of the roll with the olive oil. On the bottom, layer on: the green pepper slices, the green onion, the tomato slices and the radishes. After each couple of veggies, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Now add the black olives, the egg slices, the tuna and the anchovy fillets. Drizzle with any remaining olive oil. Scatter on a few basil leaves.

Close up the sandwich, transfer to a plate and enjoy. A glass of chilled rosé would go nicely. Serves 1.

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