Zuni Cafe's Swiss Chard Panade
Swiss chard is taking over the garden, 'tis that time of year.
My favorite way to use it is in a torte aux blettes (or torta bieta in Italian), but I've done that for you before, so it's time for a panade.
What the heck is a panade (pronounced Pa-NAHD) anyway?
When I looked up the definition, the answer was "a paste made of bread boiled in water, could also be made with rice or potatoes". Huh? What do you use it for, wallpaper?
It's a lovely word (as most French words are), but this recipe seems more like a bread pudding or gratin to me.
To get off track for a minute, I think the best thing I ate in Paris last year was a Swiss Chard Gratin. What a wonderful night to stumble into an old French restaurant with no English speaking patrons late at night, starving, a bit intimidated, but a warm and welcoming maitre d' brought us champagne and recommended the Swiss Chard Gratin (La Tour D'Argent turned us away, we were not even allowed to peak inside.....their loss!).
A creamy, piping hot casserole came out with Swiss Chard, cream and Gruyere in a bechamel sauce w/ burnt edges & a hint of nutmeg. It was so rich and delicious, I couldn't stop eating it.
Now back to the Swiss Chard PANADE.
I visited an old cookbook, which I rarely use, not sure why. Judy Rodgers' book Zuni Cafe won a James Beard Award, but I just never put it in the rotation.
I was inspired by her recipe for Swiss Chard Panade, but made mine more like a gratin, using far less stock than she does.
I didn't want mine soupy and mushy like Orangette's came out, so I cut way down on the stock (the original Zuni recipe calls for 4 cups of stock). I didn't want the "paste" effect either, I wanted more of a bread pudding, minus the eggs. The onions provide a lot of moisture, trust me on this one.
I also used grated Pecorino on top, because I didn't have any Gruyere in the fridge, and it was fantastic.
This would be a great recipe for the fall, when you have tons of Swiss Chard in the garden and the weather is turning chilly.
Swiss Chard Panade, more like a gratin! (adapted very loosely from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook):
3 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup mild-tasting olive oil (you'll need olive oil all the way thru the recipe)
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
kosher salt & pepper
1 lb. Swiss chard (thick ribs removed), cut into 1-inch-wide ribbons
1 1/2 cups day-old chewy peasant-style bread cut into rough 1-inch cubes
splash of red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 cup of chicken stock
6 ounces Gruyère, coarsely grated (or Parmesan)
In a heavy skillet, cook the onions in olive oil, sprinkling them w/ kosher salt and cook them on medium for about 15 minutes, make sure you don't brown them.
In another pan, heat some more olive oil and toast up the bread cubes, sort of making nice croutons. I do mine in a nonstick skillet.
Using a third pan, (or being thrifty and reusing one of the pans like I did!), heat some oil w/ garlic and saute the Swiss chard for about 3 minutes, until wilted and the garlic is fragrant. Season with kosher salt & pepper. Splash with red wine vinegar at the end of cooking (this is my addition and it's so good).
Drizzle some more olive oil into a casserole dish and lay the toasted bread cubes on the bottom.
Add in the cooked chard and onions and distribute nicely. Sprinkle with whatever cheese you are using, and carefully pour chicken stock around.
You can make this ahead and place in the fridge at this point until ready to bake.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325F and cover panade w/ foil.
Bake for about an hour.
Let rest 10 minutes before serving.