Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Turkey Bagnat

I roasted a turkey last week. I know, turkey is not traditional for Easter, but I had a turkey in the freezer from November when turkey was 14¢ a pound (I'm a sucker for a good deal.) and even frozen meat has an expiration date. So I roasted it.

But even a small turkey is a lot of bird for one person to eat. So what to do with it all? I was flipping through cookbooks, looking for inspiration, when chicken salad came to mind, which made me think of tuna salad, which brought me to Pan Bagnat.

Pan Bagnat is a Provençal tuna sandwich with lots of olive oil, soaking the bread. (The name literally translates to "wet/bathed bread".) But it doesn't have to be made with tuna, or have quite so much oil. 

The French will probably not be happy with me fooling around with their recipe. Did you know that there is an official Pan Bagnat Association? No joke. You can even sign up to become an official Defender of the Pan Bagnat. The websites below are in French, but I really recommend the first one, because the song (chanson) is great. (Don't forget to turn off the cicadas (les cigales) - or you won't be able to hear it properly.)
After looking at a lot of recipes (and there are a lot) I have come up with a version I like. I have reduced the olive oil, but I haven't eliminated it, because olive oil moistens the turkey breast, which tends to be dry. I've also treated it as a salad, (pan bagnat is somewhat messy - and I don't have the right bread anyway) so the chunks are larger. If you do want to use it as as a sandwich filling, I'd recommend chopping the ingredients more finely.

What I like about it is that it's very vegetable forward so it tastes fresher than the American mayonnaise and celery based chicken/turkey/tuna salads. Another nice thing about the recipe is you can vary it according to what you have on hand: green pepper instead of red, capers, anchovies, hard boiled eggs, green beans. I like a little garlic, but there are recipes that use onions. I use parsley, because the slight bitterness works well with the other ingredients and it doesn't wilt in the vinaigrette. (Something to take into account when packing a salad for later consumption). Parsley also freshens breath, which is good when you are eating something loaded with  garlic, olives and anchovies.

Untraditional - but tasty

Turkey Bagnat (with apologies to the Commune Libre de Pan Bagnat)

Serves 4 (or two, if you are really hungry)
  • 12 ounces shredded turkey
  • 1/2 a red bell pepper
  • 5-6 sliced radishes
  • 2/3 cup Niçoise or Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 2 - 4 anchovies (optional)
  • 1/2 bunch of parsley (leaves only)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove finely minced garlic/shallots (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
The method is very simple. Chop it all up, put it in a big mixing bowl and toss until it's all combined. Mix the vinaigrette ingredients together, taste and balance the flavors if necessary (remember that the salad is going to have a lot of salt in it from the olives and anchovies - I left the salt out altogether.) and pour over the salad. Toss the salad to coat and taste again, adding more oil or salt if necessary.

Note: If you make this with tuna, I'd recommend using tuna packed in oil and lemon juice instead of vinegar in the vinaigrette.

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