A pan-bagnat is a kind of sandwich that was invented in France. It is a specialty in Nice, which is a city in the south of France that borders the Mediterranean. The sandwich is made of niçoise salad on a crusty bun. The bread that is used for the sandwich is usually hearty, artisan style bread so that the texture is both crusty and chewy. The bun is traditionally round, although some variations on the sandwich use different shapes of bread.
A niçoise salad, the filling of a pan-bagnat, is made of leafy greens such as watercress, arugula, or rocket that are topped with olives — niçoise olives in particular — and hard boiled eggs. Sometimes quail eggs are used instead of chicken eggs. The salad may be topped with other vegetables including artichoke hearts, raw red peppers, steamed green beans, and shallots. The main protein in the dish is tuna fish. In some modern variations of the dish, seared tuna is used in place of tinned tuna. The salad is often garnished with tinned anchovies and dressed with a dijon vinaigrette.
When a niçoise salad is served on the crusty bread to make a pan-bagnat, the ingredients are usually layered on the sandwich. In a traditional niçoise salad, there are usually more greens and vegetables than tuna. The ratio is reversed in a pan-bagnat which usually includes more tuna with just a garnishing of the vegetables that normally appear in a niçoise salad. Also, while the olives, anchovies, and dijon dressing may be separate in the niçoise salad, these three ingredients may be blended together for use on a pan-bagnat.
Many people who are serious about French cuisine debate over the exact ingredients that should be used to make a proper pan-bagnat. Some argue over the use of lettuce or leafy greens and whether they should be used on the sandwich. Furthermore, there is a common variation on the niçoise salad that includes an addition of boiled potatoes to the salad. This variation is quite common in American restaurants. It is largely agreed that this is not the original recipe.
As there are variations on the recipe for niçoise salad, there are therefore variations on the recipe for pan-bagnat. Although most of the sandwiches are made without boiled potatoes, some are. It is also possible to find variations of the sandwich that include sweet corn as an ingredient.