Jumping the Gun

Who writes a food blog post before they have even tasted the food, much less before ever making it?

Me! That's who.

I am on a plane headed to the Pacific Northwest, going to a professional conference. I packed all the mundane needs for such a trip: flash drive with my PowerPoint, notes for my presentation, clothes, Dopp kit, and eyeglasses. At the last minute, I added my unopened June issue of Food & Wine.

An aside: My rule of thumb regarding the value of any single issue of a magazine is this: if there is even one recipe that has me salivating, counting the hours till I can make it, the issue is worth having. It's even better if that dish comes out well, and is something I will make again and again.

After opening my magazine on the plane, I knew immediately what I will be making for my August 1st post... and it's only May 17!

My mind is racing ahead to a hot July afternoon. The temperature will probably be somewhere around 100°F. Maybe even 110°F. We will want a break from the relentless summer heat, even though we don't mind it terribly.

I will pack a picnic. We'll invite some friends to join us. We may drive up 8000 feet to the forested mountain north of Tucson, or south to the cool upland prairie. I can envision a crisp, chilled rosé. And I will make these sandwiches. Pan bagnat, a Provençal specialty.

I will make changes in the magazines version of the recipe to suit our tastes. I will wrap them in parchment and tie them with twine. And, by the time we arrive at our cooler destination, under the shade of a coniferous mountain forest or Arizona live-oak tree among shimmering prairies, the ingredients will have spent the perfect amount of time marinating.

The flavors will come together and become one, yet each bite will have something special that will shine through. A burst of capers, fennel, tuna, or anchovy. But all as one.

Barbara, Mark, and Dianne - my perfect picnic companions!
This is the perfect meal for a rosé, and I invite you to see which one I paired with this sandwich on this week's issue of the Provence WineZine

Even though I have not yet made this, I know it will be perfect. Perfect like a summers day...

On July 25th, two months and a week after writing the post above, I made the pan bagnat and they were everything I had hoped for. Mark, Barbara, Dianne, and I went up Mount Lemmon, and picnicked in the cool mountain air under a canopy of tall pine trees. We had one special visitor while eating; he was sad that we refused to share. But he was brazen enough to check the box from Café Français, where I got the cookies and bread. 

Keep cool, my friends!

~ David

Pan Bagnat
Inspired by Food & Wine, June 2015
Recipe below finally created 25 July 2015

2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 egg
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, divided
2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
3 tablespoons fennel fronds
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup light oil - olive or canola
1/4 cup crème fraîche
1 tablespoon Pastis
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup pitted and chopped Niçoise olives
2 tablespoons capers
1 teaspoon Piment d'Esplette (or red pepper flakes)
2 6-ounce jars tuna packed in oil, drained
1 baguette, halved lengthwise
2 cups arugula
1 medium fennel bulb, shaved paper thin
2 heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 Kirby (pickling) cucumbers, thinly sliced
12 white anchovy fillets

Start by making the mayonnaise. Lightly toast the fennel seeds in a dry skillet over medium-low eat until golden. Let cool, then grind in a spice grinder.

Place egg, 2 teaspoons lemon zest, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, fennel fronds, mustard, salt, pepper, ground fennel, and 3 tablespoons olive oil in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Purée for 10-15 seconds, or until fennel fronds are finely chopped. Then, in a VERY slow and steady stream, with processor running, add the light oil. By the time it is gone, the mixture should be a perfect mayonnaise.

Place 3/4 cup of the mayonnaise (reserve the rest for another use, like steamed artichokes), the crème fraîche, and Pastis in a medium bowl. Mix well and taste for seasoning; add salt and pepper if needed. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Next, in another medium bowl, mix roasted red pepper, olives, capers, Piment d'Esplette, and remaining lemon zest and juice. Flake in the tuna and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Set aside to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

To make the sandwiches, generously spread both cut sides of the baguette with the fennel mayonnaise. Arrange the arugula on the bottom half of the baguette. Top with sliced fennel, then the tuna mixture. Top with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and white anchovies. Place the other half of the bread on top, then slice into four sandwiches. Wrap each individually in parchment and tie with twine.

Keep on ice in a cooler for a couple of hours while you travel to your picnic site. Unwrap, and grab a taste of summer heaven. Don't forget to bring plenty of napkins - this is a messy sandwich!

Serves 4.

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