Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Welcoming fall--for real this time

Sprinkle

Oh dear. It's been a while, hasn't it? What with a crashed laptop hard drive, the end of daylight savings time (which has relegated any and all picture-taking to the weekends, when I'm actually home for the daylight hours), and my spending half of those weekends at work, I'm afraid my camera and blogging software haven't been getting as much love as I would like.

In the meantime, we've gone through not one, but two heat waves, with a spell of glorious (if brief) fall weather in between. Now, a good two weeks into November, we've finally--really, I mean it this time, no more surprise heat waves--shaken off the last of summer. This week, in fact, marks the first time since early spring that we've turned on the heat. Or, I should say, the Suitor turned on the heat. I rolled my eyes and tossed him a sweater.

Curly kale

Which is a little odd, right? A California girl telling someone to buck up and deal with a bit of cool weather? Well, California born-and-bred I might be, but somewhere in the wind-chilled depths of my third or fourth Chicago winter, a long-dormant gene from my Danish ancestors switched on. After all the time I'd spent grumbling about the cold since my arrival, suddenly I loved the cold and everything about it--even that moment when you first step outside, and you cough because your lungs reject the air you've just breathed. I couldn't get enough of it.

Of course, eventually I graduated and moved away from those northern climes; but the damage was done, and ever since leaving Chicago I've missed "proper" winter something fierce. Now, between my convert's zealousness for cold and my penchant for fresh air, I want nothing to do with forced air heating until my fingers are stiff and numb. The Suitor has no such hesitation in turning on the heat, so we're off to a (good-humored) war with the thermostat. He prefers to make himself comfortable in a t-shirt, shorts, and liberal use of the house's heating system. I prefer to get cozy with long underwear, down booties, fleece blankets, and continual application of tea and warm, comforting foods.

Panade

It's this sort of food that I've been craving recently: this food that comes steaming out of the oven or off the stove and onto your plate, then sticks to your ribs and warms your belly. In the last week or so, I've discovered (and tweaked) a recipe that it takes one of my favorite winter meals (a bean soup with greens) and one of my favorite things to do with it (ladling said soup over a slice of crisp bread), and bakes it all together in one big pot--including the bread.

The bread gets layered with a quick braise of greens, beans, and bacon (if you're into that sort of thing) and some cheese, over and over until you run out of your ingredients. Topped with a layer of bread and more cheese, doused in broth, and baked for a little while, it's an intriguing and most satisfying meal in a bowl. You can call it a panade, a bread soup, bready mush with greens, or whatever you like; but if you've been in the mood for the sort of hearty meal that one saves for cold evenings in front of the fire, I've got the dish for you.

Lunch

Panade with Kale and Cannellini Beans

Adapted from Jamie at Home
Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 3-4 ounces bacon or pancetta, chopped (optional)
  • 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 large bunch kale, or any combination of leafy greens, ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped or torn
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (see note)
  • 8-10 ounces stale bread, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced in half
  • 4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 4 ounces grated Fontina cheese
  • 2 medium sprigs rosemary, leaves picked and minced
  • 3 quarts broth (chicken or vegetable, as you wish)

Directions

  1. Arrange the oven racks so that they will accommodate a large pot, and preheat the oven to 350F/175C.
  2. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, then add the bacon (if using) and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat has rendered and the bacon is beginning to turn brown and crisp.
  3. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are very soft and have picked up some lovely browned edges. Adjust the heat if necessary to keep them from browning before they soften.
  4. Meanwhile, grate the cheeses and combine them in a medium bowl with the minced rosemary. Set aside.
  5. When the onions are done, add the greens, stirring and tossing to coat them with the fat. Add the beans and about 1/2 cup broth, give it a good stir, and place the lid on the pot. Cook until the greens are wilted and just barely tender; the amount of time that this takes will depend on your greens. They will cook more in the oven, so they don't need to be very tender.
  6. Transfer the onion-bean-kale mixture to a large bowl and set aside. Rub the cut side of the garlic halves over the stale bread, and place one layer of bread slices face down in the bottom of the Dutch oven. Top with some of the kale mixture, then some of the cheese mixture. Repeat with additional layers of bread, kale mixture, and cheese, ending with a layer of bread. Use your hands to press down on the top layer of bread and give it a good squish. Don't be shy!
  7. Pour enough broth over everything to come up to the top level of bread, then sprinkle the remaining cheese mixture over the top.
  8. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top layer is crisp and golden.
  9. Serve in individual bowls with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of grated cheese.

Notes

  • Instead of using canned beans, you can also cook your own. Soak 6 ounces of dried white beans in plenty of water overnight. Drain, place in a large pot, and cover with cold water by at least two inches. Add a bay leaf, a rosemary sprig, and a Parmesan rind if you have one. Bring to a boil and simmer until the beans are tender.
  • Instead of Fontina, you could conceivably use Gruyere, Comte or another melty cheese.
  • I'm sure that this would also work with thyme, sage, or any other substantial herb.

8 comments:

Megan said...

I love sitting on the couch with a blanket wrapped around me. Luckily, my boyfriend prefers to be cold too so it works out. And I really like when it's cold when I'm curled up in a bed under lots of blankets! That soup looks fabulous. I have big plans for bread and soup making this winter... nothing beats bread and soup when you want a warm, comforting meal.

Rose said...

Gorgeous post. We are in SoCal as well and have been enjoying what cold we have right now! I was just wondering if and when it would ever rain. I love the chilly nights and mornings we are getting. Beautiful soup!!!

julochka said...

your pictures are wonderful. i can tell you have much better light than we do this time of year.

i really don't like when the curly kale comes in our box, i never know what to do with it and never really like it that much. it always makes me wish we had chickens.

i'll have to try this one. maybe i'll get kale tomorrow in the box. it's that kind of weather.

Anne said...

Megan - Curling up in bed when it's cold is the best! It does make it that much harder to get up in the morning, though.

Rose - We're supposed to get some rain tomorrow up here in the northern parts (or north-central). Here's hoping you get some soon, too!

Julochka - Thanks! It helps that I shot these close to midday, but I'm definitely having to use longer exposures than I did a few months ago.

Funny that you mention not caring for the curly kale. When I first made this, it was with Tuscan kale from my box (my favorite), but I didn't get pictures. Then last weekend, when I was making it again for photos, I hadn't gotten any kale in my box, so I bought some. I'd forgotten that I don't like curly kale as much as the Tuscan or red Russian varieties.

For what it's worth, you could probably use chard, spinach, the tops of root veggies like beets or rutabagas, etc. if you don't have your favorite kind of kale. But I do like the way kale retains some body, so for this dish I prefer it over things like chard or spinach.

Sight Seer said...

Looks Yummy - but almost anything cooked with a Dutch Oven is!! Get some great ones at http://www.sightseeingreview.com/castirondutchoven.php

Amy I. said...

Wow, Anne. Your photos always make me smile; I'm proud to be blog-friends with someone who takes such amazing photos. I'd love to pick your brain sometime about how you learned and what kind of equipment to use. Now that I've gushed enough about that, OMG the soup. Can't wait to find an excuse to make this on a freezing cold day.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Oh, this sounds amazing and so comforting. I wonder if this could be done in a crockpot once all of the stovetop work is done?

I bet it's even better the next day. Mmmmm...

Bee said...

Every week I roast chicken and then I make broth from its carcass. This recipe has given me some new inspiration for my chicken broth. It has everything we love at this time of year -- plus some sharp greens to keep on the right side of being healthy.

As for the thermostat, my husband has been reading a book on sustainable energy and he is DETERMINED that we keep the thermostat at 15C all winter. Layers and warm duvets are needed. Also, I have a cup of tea (or even a mug of hot water) at frequent intervals. The Suitor reminds me of my Texas sister-in-law who likes to crank up the air conditioning so she can light a fire "for ambiance" on balmy Texas "winter" days.