We’ve had intermittent snowfalls this week which translate to a wide community grin. Bring it on, El Niño. It’s cold enough – 28 degrees is the magic number – to crank up the snow makers. At night I can hear the guns shooting their white dust onto nearby Aspen Mountain. We host the women’s FIS Ski World Cup on Thanksgiving week-end. The ladies need snow.
’Tis the season for comfort food. For me, hearty, homemade soups spell satisfaction for those upcoming chilly November evenings. This week’s Panade de Butternut from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen cookbook is not French despite its fancy name. This butternut squash bread soup (sounds better in French) has become one of my top five favorite dishes.
Before we cook, however, let’s have a bear chat:
The Scene: Late last Sunday, Very Dark NIght, The Gant, Aspen
The Scene #2: Off-season. No paying customers here. The front office is closed. The D-Building, except for me, is empty.
The Villain: A bear-proof trash container stuffed with take-out food containers and champagne bottles in violation of No Trash after 8pm Sign.
The Actors: A Black Bear and Me
The Plot: My Best Wildlife Moment
Late Sunday night I heard the unmistakable sound, crash and banging of my trash can tipping over. There isn’t a bear in Pitkin County who can’t claw into Aspen’s bear-proof containers if they smell goodies. Since I’m on the second floor, I ran outside to see a delighted bear dumpster diving. I grabbed my camera and, with the first click, notified the bear I was upstairs.
You don’t yell at bears but I did scold and plead with him but, silly me, he wasn’t leaving until he’d devoured the mother lode. After all, for the 5-6 months he’s in hibernation there will be no pizza deliveries. At one point he lumbered into the parking lot and sat on his haunches before returning to finish his meal, ignoring me completely.
After 20 minutes or so, he departed, leaving a huge mess which I was not brave enough to go down and clean up. The next morning, at 7am, one of our bellman did just that. (Thanks, Nic.) I did not call the police who would have bean-bagged the bear and fined The Gant. What was an exciting encounter for me was unfortunate for this bear who was just being, well, a bear.
For the rest of the off-season or until the bears go into hibernation, I’ve appointed myself the evening trash-monitor here. No more nibbles available on my watch.
PANADE de BUTTERNUT
“This panade is one of the few dishes I’ve eaten in my life that I’ve never forgotten,” Lebovitz writes.
Because I suffer with squash addiction every Fall, David’s endorsement piqued my interest. This is not a complicated recipe but I’ve been more thorough than usual with details, photos and directions. It’s a unique ‘baked casserole that’s served like soup but is hearty enough to be a full meal.’
For baking, a 4-quart baking dish is preferred, because the greater the width, the more crusty cheese topping you’ll have when the panade is finished. Whatever size you use, it should have sides that are at least 3 inches high. I used a 2-quart dish and halved the recipe for this post but will use my 4-quart rustic terra cotta dish next time.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH BREAD SOUP (PANADE DE BUTTERNUT)
by Seen Lippert to David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen Cookbook
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp olive oil
4 onions, peeled and sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled; 2 thinly sliced, and 2 whole
2 Tbsp mixed chopped fresh thyme and sage
2-pound loaf firm-textured, dense sourdough bread, sliced into 1/4-1/2”
1/2 cup white wine
2-pound butternut squash or similar winter squash (such as Kabocha), peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch slices
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups grated Comté, Gruyère, Jarlsberg, or fontina cheese (I used Gruyère)
2 quarts warm chicken stock, plus additional stock for serving
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a wide skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, the 2 cloves of sliced garlic, and 1 teaspoon of the herbs. Cook for about 25- 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are completely wilted and beginning to brown on the bottom and edges.
2. While the onions are cooking, preheat the oven to 375 F. 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 and when cool enough to handle, rub both sides of the slices with the whole garlic cloves.
3. 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, so 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 the heat.
4. To assemble the panade, cover the bottom of a 3- to 4-quart 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 herbs. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the grated cheese.
5. Add a second layer of bread and ladle the rest of the onions and more stock over the bread. Cover with the remaining squash slices. Season the squash with salt and pepper, and then add the remaining herbs. Sprinkle another 1/2 cup of grated cheese over the squash layer. Cover the squash with a final layer of bread and then ladle the rest of the stock over the bread and press down on the ingredients to encourage them to meld together. Top with the remaining 1 cup of grated cheese, and the Parmesan.
6. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and tighten it around the edges, but don’t press it down on the surface or some of the cheese may stick to it during baking. Set the baking dish on a foil-lined baking sheet to catch any spills. Bake for 45 minutes, uncover the panade, and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the panade is very well browned and crisp on top.
7. Let cool for about 15 minutes and then spoon portions of the panade into soup bowls, making sure everyone gets a highly prized layer of the crusty topping. As you serve, ladle additional warm broth over each bowl if you wish and put extra on the table.
TIP: I sprayed the tinfoil with Pam so it would not stick to the top cheese crust.
Although I try to complete a jigsaw puzzle every month, why not try one yourself this winter? On a chilly winter evening what’s not to love about a leafy green salad, Panade de Butternut, a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon followed by putting together a puzzle. Delightful.