Whether the bread is sourdough or buttery brioche, whether it’s tossed with lightly cooked vegetables and sharply-flavored cheeses or fine chocolate or dried fruits, whether the custard is made with cream, half and half or whole milk, strata, bread pudding, or its closely-related cousin, stuffing, speaks to me in a powerful way. I’m drawn to the perfect contrast of a crispy, crunchy top and a luscious custard underneath. I could eat it for breakfast, as a side at dinner, and if a sweet bread pudding is a dessert option, I leave more than enough room for a piece or even two.
So, a few days ago, when I spied the recipe for Pumpkin Panade in my favorite Saturday morning read, the Wall Street Journal’s Off Duty Section, I immediately began checking the fridge and the pantry for ingredients. This recipe is part of the Slow Food Fast series that features four dishes over the period of a month created by a U.S.-based chef, who is making a strong impression in the city he or she is based. The dishes are designed for home cooks to make confidently in their own kitchens. Recipes from Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink (in Miami and Grand Cayman) and Harry’s Pizzeria (in Miami), currently are in the four-week rotation. As the Journal put it, he is known “…for bringing modern dining to Miami’s Design District and for supporting Florida farmers with menus that showcase the state’s bounty.”
I have cooked a handful of the dishes in this series, and in some cases, I’ve made the same dish several times, switching in new vegetables as they come into season at the Farmer’s Market. These dishes are approachable, and in every instance, make the fresh ingredients the focal point.
The flavors of the Pumpkin Panade are sophisticated: nutty, earthy fontina, woodsy thyme and a mellow sweetness that comes from the sauteed onions and pumpkin. The recipe comes together easily, too. The bread is cut into cubes and toasted for a few minutes. The sliced onions, garlic and diced pumpkin are sauteed together before baking. Grated fontina, minced thyme leaves and chopped Italian parsley are mixed in with the bread and vegetables. Chicken broth and cream are warmed a bit and then whisked into a couple of eggs yolks, creating a light, creamy sauce. All of the ingredients then are stirred together gently and then scooped into individual ramekins for baking. Sharp Pecorino (or, Parmesan cheese in my case) is lightly grated on top of the bread mixture before the ramekins are baked.
I held back enough of the bread mixture for two large ramekins and prepared them as if cooking, but instead I covered and refrigerated them overnight, baking them off in the morning for a savory Sunday breakfast. Letting the egg-and-cream-soaked bread mixture sit overnight in the fridge is something I often do with stratas and bread puddings. I believe this technique results in a lighter dish. (I wrote about this approach in a post a few months ago; Pesto Cheddar Bread Pudding.)
The Pumpkin Panade is a very versatile dish. It can be served as an entree with a side salad or as a hearty alternative to roasted potatoes or polenta alongside a roast chicken. Later this week, I’ll be making it again in a large casserole dish to share with family at an upcoming holiday dinner.
I made a few notes to the original recipe, which I’ve included below. Here is the link again to the feature.
- 1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups thinly sliced yellow onion
- Kosher salt
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 2 cups diced pumpkin, cut into ½-inch pieces (you may opt to peel the pumpkin, which I will do when I make this dish again)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2½ cups stale or toasted crusty bread (preferably sourdough), cut into 1-inch pieces
- ½ cup parsley leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons thyme leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 ounces fontina cheese, shredded
- 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
- ¼ cup heavy cream or milk
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 ounces pecorino Romano cheese or Parmesan, grated
- Heat oven to 325 degrees. Using ½ tablespoon butter, grease 4 ramekins and the dull side of 4 pieces of aluminum foil cut to cover ramekins.
- Set sauté pan over medium heat. Swirl in oil and remaining butter. Add onions and a pinch salt. Cook, covered, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, pumpkin and a pinch salt. Cook, covered, for 4 minutes. Uncover and cook until onions are lightly colored and pumpkin is tender, about 4 minutes more. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as needed. Discard garlic.
- While pumpkin cooks, toss bread, parsley, thyme and fontina in a large bowl. Stir in cooked pumpkin mixture.
- Return pan, without cleaning it, to medium heat. Add stock and cream or milk. While heating, whisk yolks in a small bowl. Once liquid is hot but not boiling, whisk it gradually into yolks (do not add too quickly or eggs will scramble). Pour liquid over bread mixture and toss to combine. Let rest a few minutes so most of the liquid is absorbed.
- Pack mixture into ramekins and top with pecorino. Cover with foil, buttered-side down. Bake, on center rack, until panades are semi-firm at their centers, about 15 minutes (My ramekins took longer to cook, so check at 15 minutes, but be prepared for 20-25.). Remove panades from oven and discard foil. Turn on broiler.
- Broil until pecorino melts and browns in spots, 3-5 minutes. Serve as a side dish or as a main course with side salad.