A panade is a broth thickened with toasted cubes of levain or bâtard bread, creating a hearty, soulful soup. It’s a lighter, fresher version of French onion soup, and can be served to vegetarians because it’s made with a cheese broth instead of beef or veal stock. It’s much faster to make than the old standard.
A mountain-style cheese such as Gruyère, Comté, or Pleasant Ridge Reserve works best here for two reasons: The cheese becomes elastic and holds its texture in the hot liquid, and the flavors of the soup -- the yeasty bread and sweetness of the caramelized onions -- are reminiscent of the flavors in the cheese.
The Onion-Garlic Confit gives this soup wonderful flavor, but if you like, you can make this recipe simpler by using chicken stock and quartered onions, as shown in the photo. —Sue Conley & Peggy Smith
Medium yellow onions, peeled and sliced into half moons
Medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced crosswise
Chopped fresh thyme
Dry sherry or brandy
In This Recipe
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/gas 4. Spread the bread cubes on a dry (not oiled) baking sheet. Toast the bread until dry throughout, but not browned, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
Combine the confit and broth in a large pan over medium heat. When the soup shows small bubbles, decrease the heat to low and let it simmer for at least 10 minutes. Taste and season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper (keeping in mind that the cheese contains salt, too).
For each serving, drop a handful of toasted bread cubes into an empty soup bowl. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the bread. Stir the sherry vinegar into the soup, and then ladle the soup over the bread and cheese in each bowl. Finish with a sprinkling of parsley, if you like. Serve right away.
In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. When the butter is bubbling, add the onions to the pan. Cook, stirring often, until the onions begin to appear translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring constantly, until the onions and garlic begin to show some color, about 5 minutes. Don’t let the garlic become too dark or it will give your confit a scorched flavor.
When the onions are soft and show a good amount of brown, deglaze the pan with the sherry, scraping the browned bits from the pan’s bottom with a wooden spoon. Cook until the liquid is almost all evaporated from the pan, and then stir in the sherry vinegar and take the pan off the heat.
This confit will keep for up to 3 days covered in the fridge, but the flavor becomes a little less bright every day. Some people store confit in the freezer; we don’t because we don’t like how freezing affects the onions’ texture.
Cowgirl Creamery launched in 1997, but our story began well before then. We met freshman year at the University of Tennessee where, little did we know, a lifelong friendship and infatuation with food would ensue. In 1976 our journey westward began. Once arriving in the Bay Area, we became involved in the burgeoning food movement at Chez Panisse and Bette's Oceanview Diner, both in Berkeley, CA. By the early 1990s, we were ready for a new challenge when we decided to launch Tomales Bay Foods, a marketing vehicle to help West Marin's farms and dairies get their delicious products into the hands of the Bay Area's finest chefs. From there, we decided to make our own cheese using the milk from neighboring Straus Family Creamery. Two decades, two creameries, four retail stores, and two thousand tons of cheese later, we still love what we do and have decided to bring our stories and recipes (dishes that use cheese not how to make cheese) to you in our first cookbook, Cowgirl Creamery Cooks.