Monday, January 7, 2013

Don't Worry About Stale Bread

It doesn't happen often but every now and then part of a loaf of bread goes stale -- too stale for toast or crostini. Usually I put it into the blender or food processor and store away breadcrumbs for my next batch of meatballs or a crispy milanese. Today I just didn't feel like more crumbs. I wanted to try something new. I've had a recipe for panade, a French casserole of vegetables and milk and stale bread, for quite some time waiting for just the right moment. No time like the present -- especially when I have half a large loaf of very stale italian bread waiting to be rescued.
First I crunched the bread up into 1/2 - 1 inch pieces, crust and all. Then I peeled a butternut squash and cut it into 1/4 - 1/2 inch slices, chopped a good bunch of stemmed black kale, and sliced part of a head of cauliflower. Meanwhile I sautéed two finely chopped shallots in 2 TB of butter, added in a quart of milk, two cloves of garlic, 6 more TB butter, S&P, and a pinch of nutmeg and brought the mixture almost to a boil. I grated two big handfuls of mimoette and Gruyere cheese (cheddar would work just as well -- I used what we had) and started to layer my panade.
Into a large dutch oven I put down a thick base of my roughly torn bread crumbs. I topped that layer with the sliced squash and about half the cheese. After a splash of half the milk mixture in went another layer of bread topped with the kale, the cauliflower and another layer of cheese. The rest of the milk covers the layers, just to come to the rim of the pot. Add some more milk or cream or even a splash of water or broth if needed to reach the rim of the pot.
I could have had dinner ready faster, but to get a custardy texture I baked my panade (covered with a rimmed pan underneath -- it will bubble over) at 275º for almost 3 hours. The last 10 minutes uncovered at 375º made sure James had a crispy cheese crust to cover the creamy interior.
A peasant dish for a cozy winter's night.

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