I was listening to an interview the other day with Melissa Clark [food writer for the New York Times] and she was asked what she likes to bring on a picnic. Clark proceeded to recount childhood vacations with her family in the south of France. Clark’s mother would prepare pan bagnat [a sandwich comprised of thick country bread, anchovies, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, capers, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, olive oil, etc.], all stacked on top of one other. In order to flatten the sandwiches so they were more manageable to eat, Clark’s mother would have her [7-years-old at the time] and her sister sit on them before heading to the beach. As a result, the capers would burst, the anchovies would get crushed, and the olive oil and tuna would soak into the bread.
Hearing Clark tell this story made me reminisce about my childhood. Instead of the crystal clear, turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, picture the murky waters of the Jersey Shore, and swap the pan bagnat for peanut butter and jelly on white bread (otherwise, almost identical). When I was younger, I most definitely would have run the other way if offered a sandwich of anchovies and capers; although I can’t imagine my mom ever preparing such a thing. Luckily, my taste buds have changed since those days and traveling has introduced me to previously unknown foods. In recent years, have grown to truly love briny, salty notes. In fact, when I travel, I usually come home with a suitcase full of various jars of capers and anchovies, bottarga, and tinned fishes (hopefully, not in violation of any Dept. of Agriculture regulations).
After hearing about this sandwich, I had to have one. It’s like a souped-up version of a tuna fish sandwich. And since it’s not made with mayo or aioli, it’s perfect for a picnic, along with being really, really tasty!
Have grown to really appreciate anchovies. Like to sneak them into red pasta sauce or a vinaigrette. When mixed in with other ingredients, they’re much more subtle, but you still get just enough of that saltiness/brininess.
Inspired by Melissa Clark [New York Times]
Makes 1 very large, tasty sandwich
3 anchovy fillets, minced
1 very small garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small cucumber (such as Kirby, Armenian, English, Persian), thinly sliced
1 crusty country demi-baguette (or half of a French baguette)
1 medium-size, ripe tomato, sliced
1/2 small red onion, sliced
1 small can (~5-6 ounces) tuna packed in olive oil, drained
3-4 jarred red peppers, sliced
8 large basil leaves
1 hard-cooked egg, peeled and thinly sliced.
1 tablespoon capers
In a small bowl, whisk together the anchovies, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly. Add the sliced cucumber to the vinaigrette and toss well.
Toast the baguette whole in a toaster oven or oven (so the crust is crispy and the interior is soft). Cut the baguette in half lengthwise and remove some of the soft interior to form a cavity. Spread the cucumbers on the bottom of the bread. Top with tomato and onion slices, then with tuna, red peppers, basil, egg slices, and capers. Top with the vinaigrette. Cover with the top half of the bread and firmly press the sandwich together.
Wrap the sandwich tightly in foil, waxed paper, or plastic wrap, then place in a plastic bag. Put the sandwich under a weight such as a cast-iron frying pan. Weight the sandwich for 7 to 10 minutes. Unwrap, slice, and serve immediately, or keep it wrapped for up to 8 hours before serving.