I notice new growth at this time of year…. do they know, these plants that have so much hope and faith, that these favorable conditions will not continue on their merry way for long? Yet, I see young mullein, just striking out, fresh-faced and raring for another go…….they’re ‘making hay’……..getting their foot in the door before winter closes it, ready for the spring they believe to be just over the next hill……
“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
Panade is a delicious dish that makes the rounds on the food blogs this time of year, and I attribute that to its ‘comfort food’ appeal which many of us crave when the air changes and the leaves flush.
There need be no mystique about it…..panade is really like onion soup squared. It starts out with sautéed onions that get layered in a casserole with stale bread, vegetable or meat stock, leafy greens, and cheese. The casserole bakes for a good 90 minutes or more until the bread has absorbed all the liquid and the resulting gestalt can then be cut into pieces.
Some liken it to an Italian ‘strata’, others to a savory bread pudding. I think that the deduction of eggs and milk from the equation puts it in a better position for an evening meal. One that might include red wine, roasted chestnuts, wild mushrooms, and salad. After a pause and a slight recovery of appetite, perhaps it’ll be time for some apple crisp by a heartening fire. (I’m starting to sound like a hobbit.) Oh for a pipe and some cherry-flavored tobacco.
“The Zuni Café Cookbook” by Judy Rodgers has a few recipes for Panade and even one for frying the leftovers. “Celebrating Italy” by Carol Field has a recipe for ‘Zuppa alla Canavesana’, or, ‘Thick Bread and Cabbage Soup With a Crunchy Cheese Crust’ which amounts to pretty much the same creature only with more broth. My own version incorporates both cabbage and Swiss chard; I like also to use leeks, true believer that I am.
I think ‘Panade’ is an unfortunate name, as it also refers to a paste made with bread crumbs to thicken soup, and the very word carries with it the dreary tone of muddy boots in a damp cellar. There are too many beautiful aspects of fall to allow that.
Let’s take back the romance inherent in the season and call it:
‘Autumn Leaves in a Casserole’, or, ‘Feuilles d’Automne en Cocotte’.
Recipe: Feuilles d’Automne en Cocotte
4 thinly sliced onions and/or leeks (washed and trimmed of outer leaves and dark green tops)
3 to 4 Tbsp. olive oil and/or butter
4 to 5 lge. cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ small head cabbage, savoy if you can get it, thinly sliced
coarsely ground pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil or butter
1 bunch Swiss chard, ribs removed, sliced into ribbons
10 c. stale bread, crusty whole-grain works well, cubed, about 1 in.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
6 oz. Jarlsberg cheese, grated
2 oz. cheddar, grated
4 c. vegetable stock
½ c. white or red wine (optional)
In a heavy pot over medium heat, sauté the onions and/or leeks with the oil and/or butter.
Stirring from time to time, cook for about 20 min.
Add garlic, stir, and put a lid on it. Turn off heat.
While onions cook, heat oil and/or butter in a skillet on med. heat. Add cabbage to it, stir, and cover.
After 2 or 3 min., pepper generously, stir, and re-lid. Cook only about 5 min.; turn off heat.
Place bread cubes in a bowl and add 2 Tbsp. olive oil, stir well so that each piece gets some.
Now de-lid the cabbage and remove to a bowl.
Place same skillet over med. heat and add Swiss chard. Stir occasionally, keep covered, and cook briefly, about 5 min. Turn off heat.
Turn on oven to 325 degrees.
Heat vegetable stock and wine in a saucepan but do not boil.
In a 2 to 3 quart oiled casserole dish, alternately layer the vegetables, bread, and cheese (save a bit to scatter on the top at the end).
The number of layers of each will depend on the dimensions of the dish.
Slowly pour the hot stock over all.
Bake for 90 minutes. About half way through, cover if it is drying out too much. You can use aluminum foil if you don’t have a lid.
Remove lid in the last 5 minutes and top with remaining cheese. Finish baking. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 min. before cutting into.
Goes nicely with roasted chestnuts and wild mushrooms.
Recipe: My Favorite Apple Crisp
5 or 6 med. to lge. apples (today I’m using Cortland, Gala, and some old variety from a hike on the Bruce Trail)
A dozen or so grapes, seeded and halved
½ c. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
Slice the apples and combine in a large bowl with the grapes and sugar. Mix well and allow to sit for at least an hour.
½ stick butter or Earth Balance non-hydrogenated margarine
½ c. brown sugar
½ c. flour
½ c. granola
½ c. oatmeal
Melt butter in pan on low heat.
Remove a small amount and use to grease a casserole dish. Buzz remaining ingredients in a mini-processor or blender just for a few seconds.
Combine with melted butter in a bowl and mix well.
Turn on oven to 350 degrees.
Place the fruit mixture in a buttered casserole dish.
Distribute the ‘crisp’ on top.
Bake for 45 minutes.