Pan Bagnat

The last few days of our recent vacation, we stayed at Bay Cottage, a lovely retreat located on the shore of Discovery Bay near Port Townsend, Washington.  It seems like I’ve wanted to stay in a place like that forever — somehow making up for the lack of a family summer vacation rental that so many others seem to have had.  If I think about it, the others I’m thinking of were most likely characters in summer reads, or old movies which makes me idealistic, I guess.  No matter, because it was beautiful there and we enjoyed sitting in the old Adirondack chairs in the evening marveling over how long the daylight lasts at this time of year, or watching the fog slowly burn off the still water each morning.  Large blue herons  stand in the shallow water at low tide like statues, patiently waiting for a fish.  It was so peaceful.

We’ve enjoyed a variety of vacation rentals in our travels.  They’re much more relaxing than staying in a hotel because a television is usually absent, there’s a living room to sprawl out in just like home, and after the daylight is gone, we go through the cards and games usually stashed away in a cupboard somewhere to enjoy a few rounds of Rummy or Trivial Pursuit.  We also take the time to read for extended periods of time, enjoying the stillness.  Outside of the water lapping against the shore, not much else broke the quiet in the evenings, which is a rare thing to enjoy.

Having a kitchen available is another vacation rental perk.  It’s usually stocked with a variety of pots, pans, and utensils and even some pantry basics to add to the groceries we shop for soon after arriving.  I know that others often question cooking on a vacation, but honestly, it’s far less trouble at times than deciding where to eat — especially when money can be saved cooking for ourselves.  It also makes packing a picnic easier when planning a day trip because if you plan with that in mind as you hit the market, then you can enjoy some pretty tasty treats on your outings.

Pan Bagnat (pahn-bahn-yah) is the perfect make ahead picnic food because other than needing to boil a few eggs, open a can of good tuna, slice vegetables, and prepare a simple vinaigrette, all you need is bread and some bricks — or in my case, weights.  On the other hand, if you’ve got children, you might consider using the weighting technique mentioned in this version of Pan Bagnat published in the New York Times.

Each bite of this wonderful sandwich is a treat whether you’re enjoying it at home or otherwise — and it’s fun to make.  Have you had Pan Bagnat before?

Pan Bagnat

Dressing Ingredients

1/8 c. red wine vinegar

1/8 c. sherry vinegar

1 T balsamic vinegar

3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

1-1/2 tsp.  soy sauce

1 clove garlic, minced

salt & pepper

Sandwich Ingredients

1 loaf crusty bread

1 c. good olives, chopped

2 roasted peppers, peeled and seeded

1 can of good tuna packed in olive oil, un-drained

basil, about a hand full

red onions, thin sliced

Brie, enough slices to cover one side of the loaf

cucumber, about 1 cup sliced

eggs, hard boiled, sliced

Brie, sliced

Anchovies, optional

Capers, optional


  1. Add all dressing ingredients except salt and pepper to a jar and shake vigorously to combine.  Taste, season to your liking, then set aside.
  2. Slice the loaf of bread in half lengthwise into equal thicknesses and liberally brush vinaigrette over each side.
  3. Layer the chopped olives over one side followed by a layer of tomatoes, sliced onions, then the tuna.
  4. On the other side, layer the roasted peppers, cucumber slices, more onion slices, then the slices of Brie.
  5. Add the sliced eggs to the tuna layer, and the basil to the Brie layer.
  6. If you’re adding the anchovies and/or, do so now to either layer.
  7. Drizzle more vinaigrette over both layers.
  8. Season with salt & pepper.
  9. Carefully and quickly, bring the two sides together like you would close an open book.
  10. Wrap well in plastic and place beneath a weighted baking pan for at least 30 minutes.
  11. When ready to serve, slice through the layers adjusting cuts to your own preference for large or small sections.
  12. If headed for an outing, wrap each section to keep the goodies inside.


Recipe Notes

  • I still have the original issue of Bon Appetit (August, 2004) where I first learned of Pan Bagnat.  It was pictured with an old bike fitted with a basket on the front and immediately made me want to be somewhere in the country on a nice day with time to laze away the day.  We’ll say I’m all about the promise of a good idea because it’s nearly eight years later and I’ve just tried my first Pan Bagnat.  Go figure.  Here’s the recipe from Epicurious.  It’s much more basic than what I’ve made here.
  • There are so many variations of this wonderful traditional French sandwich based on the Niçoise salad, but the most common elements of a Pan Bagnat are tuna packed in oil, olives, cucumber, and hard boiled egg.  I had the anchovies on hand, but when it came right down to it knew the guys would turn their noses up at having them in the sandwich.  Next time, I’ll put them in the dressing — they’ll never know! As for the capers — well I love them, but believe it or not forgot to add them.  I think their briny flavor would have been perfect with the other ingredients.
  • If you want to cut back on time, use fresh roasted peppers from your favorite deli or a good jar brand.  I don’t care for soggy roasted peppers, so the quality is important.
  • If chopping olives isn’t your thing, using a mufaletta or bruschetta topping — even a tapenade would work.  But don’t skip the olives!  Plain black canned olives won’t do this sandwich justice, either.
  • The idea of the sandwich is to be wet, traditionally so a good crusty bread is very important.  Day old works well.  Avoid the fluffy grocery store “French” bread that is often sold “warm from the oven” as it will be very soggy after all the ingredients are loaded and it’s pressed.
  • Some versions ask that you pull out the bread in the center of the loaf, but I wanted to have all that nice juice pressed into it, so left my bread intact.  You decide.
  • If you have time, enjoy the classic video in the last link below — it’s wonderful!  I love what Julia says about tuna — and beer.  So fabulous.

More Pan Bagnat from around the web

Pan Bagnat from Taste of Beruit

Pan Bagnat with Grilled Peppers and Basil Vinaigrette from Food & Style

Pan Bagnat from Lavender and Lovage

Pane Bagnato for a Picnic from The Art of Food

Julia Child & Jacques Pepin making Pan Bagnat

Summer Vacation at Bay Cottage on Discovery Bay