Although at first glance it may not look like it, with our Northern California sunny skies and green lawns, winter truly is here. The leaves have all fallen. The fish in the pond are half asleep. Several of the lettuces in the garden have succumbed to frost, while the chard and parsley thankfully are thriving. It’s still, quiet, and chilly most days. Perfect weather for a hearty soup. Even though this bread soup is meatless (if you use veggie stock), it is thick and filling. In fact, it’s really more of a stew than a soup. The bread absorbs much of the liquid. It’s called a panade, or panada, from the Latin base “pan” for bread. The recipe is based on one introduced to me by my friend Ann Martin Rolke, cookbook author, Sacramento local, and co-founder along with Amber Stott, of the California Food Literacy Center, a recently formed non-profit with the mission to help us understand the impact of our food choices.
Although it looks a bit involved, the soup is fairly easy to make. Much of the prep can be done while you are toasting the bread cubes. You brown onions and mushrooms, and layer them a couple of times in a Dutch oven with chopped fresh chard and the toasted bread croutons. Add plenty of stock, and some honey sweetened wine. Top everything with grated Parm and into the oven it goes. An hour and a half later, a rich, thick beautiful stew. Enjoy!
This soup really shines with homemade stock, especially homemade vegetable stock. I do not recommend using boxed or canned veggie stock for this recipe.
- 12-14 ounces day-old rustic bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Olive oil
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 2 cups thinly sliced onions (sliced vertically, from tip to root)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 6 to 8 ounces cremini or button mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 10 to 12 ounces fresh chard, rinsed
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
- 1/2 cup hearty red wine
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 quarts stock (chicken, beef, or vegetable, use vegetable stock for vegetarian option)
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Toss the cubed bread with a little olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt. Arrange bread on a baking sheet and toast for 20-30 minutes (check timing!) or until nicely browned.
2 While the cubed bread is in the oven, prepare the onions. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil and the butter on medium heat in a 5 to 7 quart Dutch oven. Add the onions and stir to coat with the butter and oil. Cook gently, stirring occasionally for 10 to 15 minutes. If the onions begin to dry out at all, lower the heat. They should begin to caramelize and lightly brown. Add the garlic, cook for a minute more, remove from heat.
3 While the onions are browning, heat a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms. "Dry" sauté them (sauté without any added fat) until they release their moisture and are lightly browned.
4 Cut away the tough central stems of the the chard leaves (discard, compost, or use for another purpose). Cut across the leaves into 1-inch wide strips.
5 Remove half of the browned onions from the Dutch oven and set aside. Spread the remaining onions evenly over the bottom of the pot. Layer over with half of the chard and half of the browned mushrooms. Sprinkle with pepper, half a teaspoon of salt, and thyme. Put down a layer of toasted bread cubes. Add the remaining onions, chard, and mushrooms. Layer on top the remaining bread cubes.
6 Mix together the honey and wine, until the honey is dissolved. Pour over the bread mixture. Pour the broth over everything.
7 Scatter the top evenly with the grated cheese.
8 Cover the pot with foil (not the lid) and seal it around the edges. Cut 4 or 5 vent holes in the top. Put it in a 350°F oven. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes. Serve immediately, digging into the layers to get a bit of everything for each portion, or let cool and refrigerate, covered.
To reheat, gently simmer a portion until hot. Plate and garnish with additional cheese and thyme.