Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bread Grave

I was going to publish all my passionate thoughts on feelings about shave ice, but it's been a month since I was in Hawaii, and it just feels way to cold and Christmas-y to evoke such thoughts of granular ice crystals doused in liquid sugar.  So I will hold off until it gets a bit warmer.

Instead, I bring you the answer to all your winter problems -- not one, but two recipes that make awesome use of bread past its prime and will keep you super warm and stuffed.

Picking up a fresh baguette (usually of the Semifreddi's or Acme variety) on the way home is instinctual for me.  Sometimes I don't even know why I do it because I usually have a loaf already waiting at home from the previous day.  But one must survive, and to do so, follow instinct.

I eat tons of bread.  But a lot of times, working your way through a baguette free of preservatives before it goes stale is not possible.  You can make croutons.  You can make breadcrumbs.  Or you can make a meal out of it. 

All rise and hail:
Pappa al Pomodoro and the Chard, Onion, and Gruyere Panade

I love and make pappa al pomodoro pretty regularly because a) it's always pretty cold in SF, b) it's cheap, easy, filling, and tasty, c) it's a respectable place for old bread to die.

Pappa al Pomodoro (aka Tomato Bread Soup)
from my sister Laura
serves 4
1/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 - 1 whole stale baguette, or 10 oz stale artisan bread cut into rough 1 inch cubes
32 oz chicken broth (about four cups)
32 oz can whole peeled tomatoes*
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped basil
salt and pepper to taste

If your bread isn't totally dried out, toast it in the oven at 400 degrees for about ten minutes or just when edges begin to turn golden brown.  This will ensure it is able to soak up the soup and turn into dumpling-esque bready things.

Saute garlic in olive oil over medium heat until soft but not brown, about 2 minutes.

Add broth and tomatoes, turn heat up to high and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, turn heat to low, add bay leaf, basil, and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Mash the tomatoes if they are not broken down enough.  *You can also use diced tomatoes, but I prefer whole peeled because they have been processed less.

Stir in the bread cubes and simmer for 30 more minutes.

Salt and pepper to taste, garnish with more chopped basil.


I've never been to Zuni (please, someone take me there), but if this panade recreated at home is any indication that the restaurant is worthy of its reputation, then please, take me there.  It is everything good all at once: French onion soup, stuffing/dressing, a casserole, cheesy, and therefore bubbly.

This was much more of a feat than the aforementioned tomatoey standby above (great for weeknights!).  Knowing this, I did what I could the day before -- cubing the bread, sauteing the chard, and grating the cheese.

Most of my slight adaptations stem from the fact that I was absolutely determined to use as few dishes as possible, mostly just my dutch oven.  You can also cook everything in different pots and pans and then assemble the panade into a deep 2 quart+ souffle dish if you do not have a dutch oven. 

Chard, Onion, and Gruyere Cheese Panade
adapted from Orangette who adapted it from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook
serves 4 - 5 as a main dish
1 ½ lbs yellow onions (about 2 1/2 medium onions), thinly sliced
1/2 a stick of butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb Swiss or rainbow chard, thick ribs removed, cut into 1-inch-wide ribbons
1 whole stale baguette, or 10 oz stale artisan bread cut into rough 1 inch cubes
2 cups chicken broth
About 2 loosely packed cups grated white cheese, preferably Gruyere (I used a blend of Pecorino Romano, Fontina, and Comte because it was cheaper and what I had on hand)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Component 1: Onions

In a large saucepan or dutch oven if you have one, melt the butter over medium high heat.  Cook onions until bottom layer is golden brown, stir, and repeat for top layer, about three minutes.  Reduce heat to low, stir in garlic and a pinch of salt.  Cover and cook onions until they are a pale amber color, tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

Component 2: Chard

Using the same saucepan or dutch oven, saute chard in 2 tablespoons olive oil and a tablespoon or two of water over medium heat until the leaves are just wilted, about 2-4 minutes.  Set aside. 

Component 3: Bread

Toss the cubed bread with the 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 cup of the broth, and a few pinches of salt.
 Layer the bottom of the dutch oven or souffle dish with a good amount of onions, loosely top with bread cubes, more onions, chard, 1/3 of the cheese and repeat (should be able to about one or two more times), topping with bread.

Bring the remaining 1 3/4 cups of broth and 2 cups of water to a simmer in a separate pot.  Slowly pour liquid a little at a time over the assembled panade.  Top with remaining cheese.

I diverted from the recipe and topped it with bread and cheese not only because I'd run out of onions and chard, but because I'd hoped for the bread and cheese to crisp up nicely together, which they did.

Set the dish over low heat on the stove top, bringing its liquid to a simmer until it bubbles around the edges. 

Loosely cover the panade with foil and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  If your dish is filled closer to the top than mine, you may want to place it on a baking sheet to catch any drippings that bubble over.

Uncover panade, raise oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the cheese is golden brown.

Remove from oven and let sit for five minutes before serving.

Served with a side of roasted cauliflower

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