A panade is, by definition, a variety of things, but for the purposes of this recipe it is a savory soup made with breadcrumbs and broth. This onion panade is much like French onion soup except it is also much like a casserole. There is a lot more bread and the dish is layered like a lasagne.
Ingredients and mise en place
- 5 medium white onions
- 1 loaf day-old, stale French baguette, sliced and laid out on a pan to fully dry it
- 5 tbsp. softened butter
- Approximately 6 cups chicken stock (not broth, stock)
- 5 oz. shredded gruyere cheese
- 3 oz. shredded parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (optional)
Also, be sure to preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Carmelize the onions
Cut the onions in half, lengthwise, and slice them very thin.
I picked up this kitchen scoop at Sur la Table for just a few dollars. It is a great little tool to have around the house. When I worked as a pizza cook at Pizza Hut (when I was 15), they had this type of scoop and it was handy then too.
Heat the butter in the pan, over medium-high heat. Once the butter is sizzling, place the sliced onions in the pan. Stir them until all of the onions are coated with the butter, then salt them and then stir them a few more times. Cover them with a piece of parchment paper.
The parchment paper is a very important trick. I think it is better than a lid, because no matter what temperature you are using, if you put a lid on the dish, eventually it will heat up a lot inside and you’re ultimately using high heat. But with the parchment paper, you’re covering the food without the issues of the lid.
It will take about 40 minutes to carmelize the onions. For most of this time, you’re cooking them over medium-high heat and stirring them very occasionally. If the onions burn (get black) then you have to start all over; they are not salvageable if they burn. So watch them closely. But resist the urge to stir them a lot too.
Prepare the chicken stock, bread and cheese
While the onions are carmelizing, heat the chicken stock over low heat until it simmers. Ladle some of the stock over the bread. Be generous — be sure to cover all the bread.
Then, shred the gruyere and parmesan cheese. Gruyere cheese is from a specific area of Switzerland. It is heavenly delicious, with a very notable flavor that doesn’t overwhelm a dish.
I also love parrano cheese, from The Netherlands but marketed as an Italian cheese, and think that would put a really interesting twist on this recipe. Parrano is a type of gouda that is so delicious. We go to Whole Foods in the Belmar area in Denver metro, and they often have free samples of parrano. If you stumble upon free samples, take a handful. Paranno is also good just sliced up with fig jam and hunks of fresh French baguette. I would still mix parmesan into the parrano.
For this dish, I used 5 oz. of gruyere and 3 oz. of parmesan, and I think I’d use this same ratio if I was using parrano.
Finish carmelizing the onions then deglaze the pan
After about 40 minutes of cooking the onions at medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, they will get close to being finished.
Continue to cook them until they are carmelized. Once they are nearly finished, turn down the heat and finish them off, then remove them from the pan.
After you remove the onions, pour the white wine into the pan to deglaze it.
I think deglazing is nice because it gets all those tasty bits off the bottom of the pan. Once the alcohol cooks down, pour this in with the onions and give them a stir.
Prepare the panade layers
This recipe can be made in a 9 by 13 inch pan. Tonight, I opted for my souffle pan because I thought it would look prettier. It did! Start with a layer of bread.
Top the bread with a layer of the carmelized onions and then top that with shredded cheese.
Add two more layers. Before you add the final cheese on the top of the panade, pour the remainder of the hot chicken stock over the dish.
Bake the panade in the 350 degree oven for about an hour. It will rise a bit, the way a souffle rises. Here is the final dish! Delicious. Top it with chopped fresh parsley if you wish. We enjoyed it all by itself with a little pinot grigio.