Years ago, I remember watching Julia Child and Jacques Pépin construct a marvelous big round sandwich using an entire cottage loaf of French bread. I love watching them work together - their teasing yet respectful comradery has always tickled me. Called a pan bagnat, the sandwich called for brie cheese, shallots, tomatoes, olives, anchovies and vinaigrette, then was pressed under a heavy weight until the juices all soaked in to the bread and was divided between all the eaters. Sounds wonderful, doesn't it?
Well, I had only a vague memory of what goes in but decided I wanted to make a similar sandwich without looking it up on YouTube, so I got out a bunch of ingredients and went to work.
I used Acme's wonderful herb slab bread, cutting off a piece about the right size, then slicing it in half through the middle so there was crust on both sides. Drizzled some EVOO on the bottom and balsamic vinaigrette on the top, then layered cheese, slices of cooked spicy Italian sausage and marinated artichoke hearts inside. I wished for some minced shallot that I didn't have and a few leaves of soft lettuce would have been nice, too. Oh, well. I wrapped the sandwich in plastic wrap and stuck it in the fridge for half a day, weighed down by a quart of orange juice laid on its side on top of the sandwich.
The combination of the herbal bread, the tangy vinaigrette and the savory ingredients made for a lovely sammie, even though it wasn't authentic to Julia and Jacques. I checked out Pan Bagnat on the interwebs while I waited for mine to chill and compress, and that gave me all kinds of ideas for next time.
In the meantime, if you are looking for a really nice warm weather meal, this sandwich or one like it is a great option. It's cool from hours in the fridge, flavorful from whichever ingredients you select and filling. If you used a whole loaf, you could feed an army or feed yourself for a week, but there's no need to make more than you can eat today.
Bon Appetit, as Julia would say. Happy Cooking from Jacques.