I've just left the Basque Country and headed back toward the Pacific Northwest, embarking on a truly epic amount of travel time. And mourning. Back to work and daily life, where it only takes one 'k' instead of three to say thanks. No more freshly-caught hake, home-infused sloe liqueur, or hand-made European cheese (with the exception of a chunk stowed in my luggage, courtesy of a visit to an overly-friendly convent in Idiazabal). And, worst of all, no more of my dear friends, to have a drink with while hanging out on cobblestone streets on balmy Autumn evenings, or to teach me the livestock-specific call for every farm animal we passed on our many walks. I've still got a few meals to log from my trip, and a handful of recipes to try at home. But for now, I need some comfort food.
I had the good fortune of encountering this recipe from Portland's Fressen Bakery a few weeks ago for my story on rye, and it manages to combine two of my favorite things: rye bread, and leftover-repurposing thrift. If you haven't yet met the panade, I heartily encourage you to become acquainted. Cubes of stale bread (and really, it can be any crusty loaf, not just rye) are enriched with aromatics and other additions (in this case, caramelized onions, fennel seeds, a bit of vinegar and wine and a whole lot of kale), then tossed with cheese. Then the whole mess is given a good drink of flavorful broth, and baked until bubbly. The result is heavenly. It's like the best part of stuffing, but made softer, saucier, and a bit healthier (especially if you, like me, use an overly-hefty helping of kale).
I love the balance of flavors in this version, and the way that the sour vinegar and wine offset the heftier bread and cheese, but really you can freestyle a panade with any combination of breads, cheeses, herbs and vegetables that are knocking around your pantry. I was going to write that it's enough to soften the blow of returning back to my normal stateside life, with its presence of workdays and absence of red-tiled roofs. To be fair, that might be too tall an order. But this is really delicious, a bit of a culinary blanket to curl up with and make the rainy Northwest days a little warmer. You can find the recipe here, courtesy of The Oregonian.