This dish could have fed an army. It was GIGANTIC. I would describe it as French onion soup meets oozy casserole. Full-flavored, cheese-covered comfort food. The thinly sliced butternut squash and fresh herbs layered into the bread, caramelized onions, and cheese added a little bit of excitement as well as color and nutrition. 😉
This recipe was adapted from My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. Lebovitz stated that this is one of those dishes that improves as it sits… thank goodness! We had lots of leftovers. 🙂 I added additional homemade stock to the leftovers, before reheating, just to make it a little bit soupier.
Yield: Serves 8 to 10
- 3 T unsalted butter
- 3 T olive oil
- 4 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled (4 thinly sliced & 4 whole)
- 2 T mixed fresh thyme and sage
- 2-pound (900 g) loaf firm-textured sourdough bread, sliced
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 2 quarts (2 l) warm chicken or turkey stock, plus additional stock for serving, as desired
- 2-pound butternut squash or other winter squash such as Kabocha, peeled, seeded and sliced into 1/8-inch slices
- coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups grated Comte, Gruyere, Jarlsberg, or Fontina cheese
- 1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz /45 g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
- Melt the butter with the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. (I used an enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
- Add the onions, 4 cloves of sliced garlic, and 1 teaspoon of the herbs. Cook for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are completely wilted and beginning to brown on the bottom and edges.
- While the onions are cooking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
- Put the slices of bread on baking sheets in a single layer and toast in the oven, turning the slices over midway, until both sides are dry, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven.
- When cool enough to handle, rub both sides of the bread with the whole garlic cloves.
- Slice the peeled and seeded squash into 1/8-inch slices. (I used a mandoline.)
- When the onions are done, pour in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen up any of the flavorful brown bits. Cook for a minute or two, until the wine is absorbed.
- Add 2 cups of the stock to the onions and cook until the stock is mostly absorbed 10 to 15 minutes, and then add the rest of the stock and heat until the stock is hot. Remove from heat.
- To assemble the Panade, cover the bottom of a 3 to 4 quart (3-4 l), 3+inch (8 cm) deep, baking dish with a layer of bread, breaking any pieces so they fit in a single layer, but keeping them as large as possible.
- Ladle about half of the onions and some of the stock over the bread, and then cover with half of the squash slices. Season lightly with salt, pepper, and half of the remaining herbs.
- Sprinkle with 1/2 cup (40 g) of the Comte.
- Add a second layer of bread and ladle the rest of the onions and more stock over the bread. Cover with remaining squash slices. Season the squash with salt, pepper, and the remaining herbs.
- Sprinkle another 1/2 cup (40 g) of Comte over the squash layer.
- Cover the squash with a final layer of bread and then ladle the rest of the stock over the bread.
- Press down on the ingredients to encourage them to meld together.
- Top with remaining 1 cup (90 g) Comte, and the Parmesan.
- Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and tighten it around the edges. Don’t press it down on the surface or some cheese may stick to the foil during baking.
- Set the baking dish on a parchment paper or foil-lined rimmed baking sheet to catch any spills.
- Bake for 45 minutes, uncover the Panade, and bake for another 30 minutes, or until it is very well browned and crisp on top.
- Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving. Spoon portions into shallow soup bowls, making sure each serving is topped with crusty topping.
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