So, what’s panade? If you said bread soup, you’re right. While it seems like an odd thing from which to make soup, bread is often used in soup in one form or another: croutons on top, bread for dipping, and, as in the case of Italian Bread Soup and this panade, the bread is cooked right in the soup. Several times in the past, we thought about making a panade, and just put it off, until we finally forgot all about it. So, how did we resurrect the idea?
We’d just picked up a large bunch of Swiss chard at the farmers’ market without any plans for how to use it, so we hit the Internet looking for Swiss chard recipes. As always, nearly every one that comes up is for sauteed Swiss chard. Can you say boring? Us, too. But, there at the bottom of the list was one that looked intriguing — it said something like 25 Swiss chard recipes. Even though we thought that we’d have 25 recipes for sautéed chard, we clicked. Partway down the list, we saw this recipe: Bread Soup (panade) with Onions, Chard, and Mushrooms. Then it hit us; we’d wanted to make a panade in the past. Well, it seemed like fate, so off we went. We pretty much followed the recipe as given, with just a tweak or two. Compare the two and you can see which fits better with your scratchin’ skills.
You can use just about any vegetables in a panade, and don’t worry if you don’t have enough broth; your soup will be thicker (and, to our minds, probably better). We do suggest that you use a homemade stock, though. They’re easy to make, and better than anything you’ll find in a can or carton. For the bread, we used a rustic homemade onion-rye, but you can use any rustic, partly stale bread you have. You don’t have to use Parmesan cheese; you can use almost any kind of cheese (Velveeta is not cheese), but we suggest using a strong aged cheese. It’ll have more flavor when baked. Finally, the original recipe called for red wine, which we don’t like, so we replaced it with Pinot Grigio, which we do. Use a wine that you like.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Make croutons. Slice the bread into cubes about an inch on a side. Having some bigger or smaller won’t matter; they all get cooked up in a broth, anyway. Place them in a medium- sized bowl with the garlic oil and toss to coat. If you don’t have garlic oil, you can smash one clove of garlic, along with a pinch of salt, in about a tablespoon of olive oil and use that. Sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt and toss again. Place on your prepared baking sheet.
Bake croutons. Bake the croutons for 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Once baked, remove and set aside to cool, but leave the oven on, as this is a baked soup.
Sauté onions. You can do much of this while the croutons bake: heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium low heat. Once hot, add the onions, give them a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring only occasionally, until golden brown. Don’t let them burn, as burnt onions don’t taste anywhere near as good. Once the onions are softened and browned, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Remove the garlic and onions from the dutch oven and set aside.
Sauté mushrooms. Add the mushrooms to the dutch oven and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Not only will the salt and pepper make them taste good, the salt will draw out moisture from the mushrooms. Let the mushrooms cook, stirring only once or twice, until they’ve release all their liquid and are golden brown. Remove the mushrooms from the dutch oven and set aside. You can take the dutch oven off the heat.
Layer panade. We’ll make two sets of layers, and each one is layered from top to bottom: onion, chard, mushrooms, seasoning, bread. Then we’ll repeat to form the second layer. So, start by spreading half the onions in the bottom of the dutch oven, followed by half the Swiss chard, and half the mushrooms. Then, apply a sprinkle of kosher salt, some black pepper, and just a bit under a half teaspoon of dried thyme. Now coat all that with half of the bread cubes. Perfect. Repeat the layering in the same order.
Make honeyed wine. In a small bowl — we used a measuring cup — stir together the wine and honey until it’s dissolved. Yes, we think that honey in soup is odd, too, but that’s what the original recipe called for. Besides, it’s not all that much honey. Once dissolved, pour over the bread cubes.
Add stock. Pour all the stock over the bread crumbs — we think that the stock should come about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way up the layers. But, honestly, we aren’t sure. We just used all the stock we’d made (about 4 1/2 cups).
Add cheese. Sprinkle on the cup of shredded cheese, making sure to coat most of the bread crumbs. It helps to sprinkle from a height — chefs don’t sprinkle salt, pepper, or cheese, from a height to show off (it’s not that difficult), but because you get a more even distribution of whatever you’re sprinkling.
Bake. Cover the dutch oven, and bake for 75 minutes, or until bubbling throughout. If you wish, you can remove the cover when there’s about 15 minutes of baking left. We didn’t, but, we wish that we had.
Rest. Remove from the oven and let rest for about 10 minutes. Those bread cubes will hold in super hot broth, and without this bit of rest, everyone at the table might end up with burns on the roofs of their mouths.
Well, we have to say that we were underwhelmed with this dish. It was like a poor version of French onion soup, about half the flavor, and a few other ingredients tossed in. We think the main reason was that you have to partly cook this soup blind, no tasting and correcting partway through, which, in our case, made for a bland soup. We also had problems with the amount of liquid (the original recipe called for almost twice as much), and think this would be better as something closer to a casserole. We doubt that we’ll be making this again, so three stars.