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BVC Eats: Pan bagna, or egg and anchovy sandwich

This recipe derives from fiction. I’ve been rereading Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels obsessively, as I reread everything on my keeper shelf, and just came across his mention of egg and anchovy sandwiches. (For five points, fans, which story does this appear in? Yes, I did just read it, but that was four days ago. I’ve read eight of his books in the last four days. You think I remember this?)

I already owned The Nero Wolfe Cookbook, but the recipe isn’t in there. Fortunately the interwebs are our friend here. I read about eleven recipes and came up with my own. Tried it twice in two days. I still have a chunk of baguette left. (“European French bread” according to my grocery, and every time I buy it I want to ask the bakery staff, “As opposed to what other kind of French bread? but life is too short.) So tomorrow will see another variation.

Apparently in some places they make the salad dressing separately and serve it hot, in a fondue pot. This is called plain bagna cauda, and also looks amazing. Some other time. Maybe I’ll do that with that leftover baguette instead of the sammy.

Here’s the version I like so far after two tries:

serves two

5 oz tinned anchovies (I like ’em salty)
12 capers
2 cloves garlic
2 to 4 T Spanish olive oil
1 ripe avocado, diced

2 boiled eggs, peeled

1 16- to 24-inch dense, crusty baguette

FILLING: Put the anchovies and capers into the bowl of a mortar-and-pestle. Smash ’em good, until they are a paste. Crush the garlic cloves and add them to the mortar, and smash again. Add the avocado and olive oil and smash again, mixing thoroughly. I recommend letting this mixture sit for a few hours to allow the flavors to marry.

Slice or dice the boiled eggs. If you dice, then mix them thoroughly into the anchovy filling.

ASSEMBLE: Slice the baguette lengthwise. Hollow out the loaf by removing some of the bread from the center, in a long trench. Pile the filling into the hollow—some recipes suggest you schmear the cut sides of the bread before you pile in the rest of the filling. If your eggs are sliced separately, lay the slices on top of the filling.

My preferred olive oil is Spanish, made from Manzanilla olives, much olivier in taste than that “extra virgin” bland stuff you get from Italy.

Tomorrow I’m adding thin-sliced basil leaves and maybe some chopped tomato. And I might press it (see variations below) because the schmear does kind of squish out of the bread a bit. If you use a wimpier bread, such as Beafsteak RyeTM, you probably won’t have filling-escape problems.

Here are some variations I’ve seen that looked good, but haven’t tried:

o  Add sliced tomato, basil leaves, chopped red and/or yellow peppers.

o  This is traditional! Make a “pressed” version: Wrap your finished sandwich tightly and press it under a heavy cast iron pan. Fill the pan with canned goods to make it heavier. Put all that in the fridge for 1 hour to 2 days. This sandwich supposedly keeps very well that way, and is a favorite for picnics for that reason.


2 thoughts on “BVC Eats: Pan bagna, or egg and anchovy sandwich”

  1. Jennifer Stevenson

    It will not kill his arteries. It contains olive oil, not animal fat, and anyway animal fat has had a bad rap. It is brain food, which veggie oils are not. The low-fat thing is so last century!

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