A panade is one of those dishes that is way better than it has any right to be — or than it looks to be. It's an assembly of day-old bread, shredded cheese, and handy pantry ingredients (in this case, white beans, Swiss chard, and sausage) that gets doused with broth and baked until bubbly, like a savory bread pudding meets French onion soup. Not quite a soup and not quite a casserole, it's something more: the best of both worlds.
The only real drawback to panades, in my opinion, is that they take so long to bake that I'm always starving by the time it's ready. This is where my friend the slow cooker comes in.
I make all the main ingredients the night before — toasting the bread, cooking the filling, even shredding the cheese — and then assemble everything the next day in the slow cooker. I think the panade is best when cooked for six hours on the HIGH setting, but cutting it back to four hours or slowing it down for eight hours on LOW is also OK. Just don't go beyond eight hours or the panade can burn.
Be forewarned: This recipe make a lot. It's perfect for feeding a crowd or making a week's worth of meals ahead of time. It also freezes surprisingly well, although it looks even more rustic once reheated! I recommend freezing in individual containers and reheating in a bowl in the microwave.
If you're wondering what exactly this dish is, think of it as a French bread stew that's a tiny bit brothy like French onion soup. (This is not the other version of panade, which is soaked bread used to keep meatballs or meatloaf moist.) We've updated the recipe to use less broth so the finished panade is not soggy. Toasting or drying out the bread first is essential here because it's cooked in a slow cooker. Skipping this step will result in a thick, gloppy stew, but I've offered two options so that you can pick the method for drying the bread that works best for you.
- Christine, September 2017
Comfort Food French Stew: Watch the Video
Cheesy Panade with Swiss Chard, Beans & Sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces uncooked pork sausage, casings removed
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium bunch Swiss chard (about 12 ounces)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans (3 cups beans), drained and rinsed
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 ounces), divided
4 cups (32 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth
Coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves (optional)
Dry out or toast the bread cubes. To dry out, place bread on a rimmed baking sheet and let sit out to dry at room temperature, stirring once or twice, at least 8 hours or overnight. To toast, place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a 375°F oven until toasted, stirring halfway through, about 20 minutes total.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the sausage and onion and cook, breaking up the sausage into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until the sausage is cooked through and the onions are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the chard stems into 1/2-inch pieces, thinly slice the chard leaves, and keep the stems and leaves separate.
Add the chard stems to the pan and cook until the stems are softened, 3 to 5 minutes more. Add the chard leaves, garlic, and thyme, and cook until the leaves are wilted and tender, about 4 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Place 1/3 of the bread cubes (about 4 cups) in an even layer in a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Scatter 1/3 of the chard mixture (about 1 cup) and 1 cup of the beans over the bread. Scatter 2/3 cup of the cheese over the entire layer. Repeat with layering in this order in the same amounts: bread, chard mixture, cheese, remaining bread, and remaining chard mixture. Refrigerate the remaining 2/3 cup of cheese. Pour the broth evenly over the top of the panade.
Cover and cook on the HIGH setting for 4 to 6 hours, or on the LOW setting for 8 hours. Sprinkle the reserved 2/3 cup cheese over the top of the panade in the last 15 minutes of cooking. Serve in bowls, garnished with parsley if desired.
Make ahead: The sausage and chard mixture can be cooked up to 1 day ahead, cooled, and refrigerated until ready to assemble. The bread can be dried or toasted up to 1 day ahead.
Storage: Freeze leftover panade in individual containers. Reheat in the microwave on HIGH for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring once or twice during cooking.
Oven directions: Assemble the panade in a 9x13-inch casserole dish or Dutch oven. Cover with aluminum foil or a lid, and bake at 350°F for 45 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese, and continue baking uncovered for 15 minutes more.