Here’s a delicious winter soup, French in origin, thick enough to hold a fork straight up. Onions, greens, soaked bread layered with milk, stewed leeks, and cheese are all slowly baked in a wide, glazed earthenware dish until they bind. The mixed leafy greens and cheese give this dish a great look, bubbling and golden brown on top. The choice of bread is crucial here. Pick a good chewy bread with a soft crust. Slow cooking will make it silky and soft. Pass a pepper mill.–Paula Wolfert
LC RECIPE THERAPY NOTE
There’s something therapeutic about spending time in the kitchen tending to a slow-cooked meal. This panade takes several hours to come together, although it strikes a lovely balance of hands-on slicing and simmering with low-maintenance stewing and baking. And after each burst of activity, you’re rewarded with time for rest and relaxation. And, ultimately, you’ll find yourself tucking into a bowl full of ingredients that do a body good. Who needs retail therapy when you have recipe therapy?
Panade of Leeks, Mixed Greens, and Cantal Cheese
- 3 large leeks (white and light green parts only), chopped
- 1 red onion chopped
- 5 green garlic shoots or 8 to 10 garlic cloves sliced
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- One 1-pound loaf stale chewy bread with crust
- 1 1/2 pounds (about 10 cups) mixed leafy greens (sorrel, chard, parsley leaves, arugula, spinach, and watercress), deribbed and shredded
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Freshly ground pepper
- Grated nutmeg
- 3 cups whole milk heated to simmering
- 1/2 pound Cantal or Gruyère cheese
- Measure the leeks, onion, and garlic to be sure you have about 1 quart.
- In a 7- or 8- quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Slowly stew the leeks, onion, and garlic for 10 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook for 5 more minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 250°F (120°C).
- Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes. You should have about 2 quarts. Spread the cubes in one layer on an oiled baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, or until just golden. Let cool and store until ready to use.
- Add the greens to the pot, cover, and cook over low heat for 45 minutes. Uncover and boil away excess liquid. Allow to cool. Add the lemon juice, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. Correct the salt. (Up to this point the recipe can be prepared 1 day in advance. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before continuing.)
- About 2 1/2 hours before serving, oil a deep 3-quart casserole, preferably earthenware. Place one-third of the bread cubes in the dish, top with half the greens, and repeat, ending with the bread cubes and patting lightly to make an even topping. Gradually pour the hot milk down the insides and over the top of the panade so everything is moist. If necessary, add 1/2 cup water. Cover with the grated cheese and a sheet of foil.
- Bake in a preheated 250°F (120°C) oven for 1 3/4 hours. Raise the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C), uncover, and bake 20 more minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to relax for about 10 minutes before serving.
Originally published December 13, 2003