A panade is basically a bread soup/stew that is made by layering various components, such as bread, onions, greens, and cheese, pouring broth or stock all over and up to the top of the ingredients, then covering and baking until most of the liquid is absorbed. It’s wonderful comfort food and just a really good, gooey, slurpy meal. It’s a bit of work, as one either needs stale bread or bread that’s baked to crouton consistency (so the bread doesn’t dissolve in the liquid) plus the onions need to caramelize for a good 30 – 40 minutes (you can get by with sautéing the onions for ten minutes or so, but the results are not as good). Then it bakes for at least an hour. It’s worth it. Oddly, panade is considered a side dish, but I find it’s quite filling on it’s own. Cheese note–while you can use most any cheese here, gruyère and/or other so-called “melting” or fondue cheeses (fontina, raclette, emmental, provolone, morbier, appenzeller, etc.) are superb in this dish. Bread note–whole grain is, I think, a better choice for this than white, it holds up better. I usually halve the following recipe, and it’s still plenty.
8 c or so stale whole grain bread, cubed (see step #1 for details on using fresh bread)
3 – 4 c broth or stock, divided
1/2 c vegetable oil, divided
3 c half-moon slices of onion and/or leeks
1 1/2 – 2 c sliced mushrooms, optional, but adds deep, earthy flavor
3 – 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1/2 c red wine
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 t caraway seeds; or other seeds, such as fennel, coriander, dill…
1 t thyme leaves, or other, dried herb
1 large bunch greens, stemmed if necessary, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
2 c shredded gruyère or other cheese
1. If you have stale, cubed bread, toss it in a large bowl with 1/2 c of the broth/stock, 2 T oil and a little salt. Set aside. If starting with fresh bread, cube, toss with oil and bake for about 15 minutes in a 325ºF oven. Or, toast, then cube and toss as for stale bread. Or, set fresh bread out on the counter for a day or two.
2. Heat 1/4 c oil in a large skillet. Add onions and some salt and sauté, stirring frequently, until caramelized, about 30 – 40 minutes. You want a rich, brown color. Add a splash of broth/stock if the onions are sticking. Add the mushrooms after about 15 minutes of cooking. Towards the end, add the garlic, red wine, vinegar, caraway, and thyme. Keep cooking until the liquid has almost all evaporated. Remove from heat and scrape into a bowl (but not the bread bowl).
3. In the same skillet, heat a T of the oil and sauté the greens until wilted and any liquid has evaporated. Set aside.
4. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Use the last T of oil to grease a 9″ x 13″ baking dish or other, similar, suitable dish. Layer half the bread on the bottom, then half the onion/mushroom mixture, half the greens, and half the cheese. Repeat. Pour the broth over all. You want the broth to come up to the top of the ingredients, even cover it–just leave some space so you don’t spill it putting it in the oven. Cover with foil.
5. Put baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet, for insurance. Bake for an hour, until golden and bubbling. Remove foil, then return to the oven for another 10 minutes or so, to brown the cheese some. Allow to sit for another 10 minutes, then serve. Whew!