This recipe is adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers. Having made it many times before, I have been thinking about this recipe for most of the spring. The beauty is its versatility. It can be served as a one pot meal, the bread in the panade being loaded with the potlikker, or as a beautiful side dish, depending on how you make it. I have found it is important, as Judy Rodgers says, to use a 3-inch deep casserole if you want lots of potlikker but if you use a shallow casserole it can also be made more like a strata or savory bread pudding, in which case I would cube the bread. —thirschfeld
4 as a main 6 to 8 as a side
ciabatta slices, half inch thick
or more olive oil
yellow onions, thinly sliced
garlic cloves, peeled thinly sliced
tightly packed cups swiss chard, rinsed three times and dried, stems cut into 1/8 inch pieces and leaves cut into thin ribbons
Heat half the oil in a large 14 inch skillet. When the oil is hot place as many of the ciabatta slices into the pan as you can fit. Brown one side until it is golden brown and delicious and then remove them to a plate and season them with salt and pepper. Hide them because you will eat them all. Finish browning the rest of the slices. Hide them too.
After browning the bread add a little more oil and add the onions, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Turn the heat to medium, if you haven’t adjusted it already, and sweat the onions until they are soft and amber in color. Add the garlic and cook a few minutes until fragrant. Remove everything from the pan.
Add the chard and tarragon to the pan and season it with salt and pepper. Wilt the chard until it is just tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
While the chard is wilting preheat the oven to 350? F and oil the casserole.
Add layer of onions to the bottom then a layer of ciabatta. Now lay on half the chard and add another layer of onion, 1/3 of the cheese and bread. Now add enough broth to come to the bottom of the second layer of bread. I push down on the mixture to compact it but that is up to you.
Repeat this process finishing with a top layer of bread. Add as much broth as needed to reach the bottom of the top layer of bread. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes.
Remove the foil and top the panade with the remaining cheese, it should have a thick layer of cheese on top. Bake another 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is brown and bubbly and the edges are bubbling too. Remove and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes and serve.