After my last throat-clearing post, I’d wanted to return with something really lovely and inspiring to share with you.
Instead, I have one of the most homely dishes ever to appear in these digital pages.
I’m glad I’m posting it nonetheless for a few reasons. Blogging, like cooking, entails a good deal of putting oneself “out there.” It can be a risky transaction, the self-exposure. G3 has been blessed with gracious readers and commenters (food blogs, like many online spaces, aren’t always so lucky), so I’ve never been terribly afraid of censure from our audience or readers. It’s that I’m typically a harsh self-critic, so posting a picture of something as humble – and homely – as this dish is a good way for me to tell that critic to hush up.
Let me assure you: this dish makes up in flavor what it lacks in beauty. This is oozy, hearty stuff — even a little decadent. Somewhere between onion soup and a casserole, it’s the perfect thing for the wintery weather that’s undeniably upon us here in southeast Michigan. Making this with the last of the Tantre winter share greens, as well as some bits and ends of day-old bread that I’ve been throwing in the freezer for the past months, eases my conscience (I’m not wasting!) and domestic tensions regarding our over-stuffed freezer. Relieving us of a few bags of bread means it’s less likely that we’ll be assaulted by projectile paths of bags of frozen Locavorious produce.
Yep, it makes E happy on a few levels, and that makes me happy.
Onion, Greens, and Gruyere Panade
1 ½ lbs yellow onions, preferably a sweet variety, thinly sliced
About ½ cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, slivered
1 lb or so of winter greens – kale or chard are my favorites – cut into 1-inch-wide ribbons
10 ounces day-old chewy artisan bread, cut into rough 1-inch cubes
2 cups chicken broth
About 2 loosely packed cups good-quality Swiss gruyère
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cook the onions in lots of olive oil — about 1/4 cup or so. I use my Dutch oven for this, but a deep saucepan would work well. Cook until golden on the edges for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Then lower the heat and add the garlic and some salt. Let cook until the onions are a nice amber color, for about 15 mins or so.
Heat a little oil in a large skillet and saute the greens for a few minutes. Sprinkle with salt and stir. Set aside.
Toss and massage the cubed bread with 2 or 3 Tbs olive oil, ¼ cup of the broth, and a few pinches of salt.
Now, I usually assemble the panade in my Dutch oven (the same one I used for the onions, above), but you could use a souffle dish if you like. Start with a good smear of onions, followed by a loose scattering of bread cubes, then a little more onion, some greens, and a handful of cheese. Repeat, continuing until all ingredients are incorporated and the dish is full. Aim for 2 to 3 layers of each component, but don’t fuss over it. This is peasant food, and as I already mentioned, it’s not going to end up pretty.
Pour the remaining broth and water in slowly over the assembled panade, drizzling it down the sides of the dish. The liquid should come up nearly to the top of the layered ingredients.
Set the dish over low heat on the stovetop, and bring its liquid to a simmer. Cover the top of the dish with parchment paper, then with the lid of your Dutch oven or with some foil. Place the panade on a baking sheet in the oven, and bake it until hot and bubbly, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. The top should be pale golden and a bit darker on the edges.
Uncover the panade, raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees, and leave until for another 10-20 minutes, to brown the top a bit. Remove from oven, and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.