Tuck all the elements of tuna Nicoise inside a baguette and it turns into another traditional Provençal classic: pan bagnat, literally “wet bread.” In this case the wet ingredient is olive oil and the results are delicious. To make the sandwiches, cut an extra-long baguette into fourths, hollow out the soft crumb, layer the bottoms with tuna, tomatoes, olives, green beans, red onion, anchovies, eggs, and fresh herbs — these are stacked precariously high — then cover with the tops and wrap up. You can weight the wrapped packets briefly with a skillet to compact the sandwiches, which are juicy, salty, sweet, and a little messy.
About the baguette: You need a loaf that is 18 inches long, or use most of two 12-inch loaves. When you cut them up, you want sections that are at least 4 inches long. If you can find individual crusty breads use those. The recipe is incredibly forgiving; it doesn’t matter if the filling is ridiculously high at first or a little flatter. Take the wrapped sandwiches to the patio and imagine you’re sitting in a spot far, far away in beautiful, sunny Provence.
Tuna Nicoise baguette
|¼||pound green beans|
|2||cans (6 or 7 ounces each) tuna in olive oil|
|2||tablespoons white wine vinegar|
|1||long baguette (18 inches)|
|2||medium ripe tomatoes, cored and thinly sliced|
|½||red onion, very thinly sliced|
|6||tablespoons mixed fresh parsley and oregano leaves|
|1||can (2 ounces) anchovy fillets, drained|
|12||pitted Nicoise, Kalamata, or other black olives|
|Olive oil (for sprinkling)|
|Salt and pepper, to taste|
1. In a saucepan fitted with a steamer insert and several inches of boiling water, steam the green beans, covered, for 3 minutes, or until they are bright green and slightly tender. Lift out and transfer to a bowl of very cold water; let the tap run into the bowl until the beans are cold. Dry with paper towels.
2. Empty the saucepan and refill it with water. Bring to a boil. Add the eggs and cook 10 minutes exactly. Lift out and transfer to very cold water; let the tap run into the bowl as you crack the eggs and peel off a strip of shell on each one. Finish peeling the eggs and dry with paper towels.
3. In a bowl, combine the tuna with the oil from the can and the vinegar. Stir gently to keep from breaking up the fish.
4. Cut the baguette into 4 even pieces. Halve each piece lengthwise, keeping the sections together so you can shape sandwiches later. Remove most of the soft crumb on both sides of the tops and bottoms to make hollows for the filling.
5. On the bottom pieces, spread out the tuna and sprinkle over some of the oil-vinegar. Cover with tomatoes, red onion, green beans, herb leaves, anchovies, and olives (tuck them in so they don’t fall out). Sprinkle with any remaining oil-vinegar or olive oil, salt, and pepper.
6. Slice each egg thickly. Make a layer of egg slices, add a sprinkle of olive oil, salt, and pepper.
7. Sprinkle the inside of the bread tops with olive oil and salt. Reshape each section to make 4 sandwiches. Wrap individually in parchment paper and tie with kitchen string, making the string tight so the sandwiches compact. Set on a tray and set a heavy skillet on top for 15 minutes. Leave the sandwiches in a cool place for up to 3 hours. Let each guest unwrap a sandwich.Sheryl Julian can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.