There could be nothing to eat in the house—no meat, no fish, no chicken, no pasta, no rice, no nothing—but if you have a big onion, some leftover bread, some cheese, and some broth of any kind, you’ve got the makings for this dish, which is peasant food at its finest. Anyone who knows soupe a l’oignon gratinée understands that it’s just an excuse to eat the soup-soaked bread, and bubbly, crunchy brown cheese that cascades over the sides of the bowl. This onion panade is exactly that: unctuously delicious onion soup, without the soup.
Yield: Serves 2 – 3
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large Spanish onions, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 6 slices day-old country-style bread or baguette
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or more traditionally, Gruyère)
- 2 – 3 cups stock (beef, chicken, or vegetable)
- Preheat the oven to 325F.
- In a large skillet set over medium heat, warm the olive oil until it begins to shimmer. Add the onion slices to the pan, toss to coat them with the oil, and cook slowly, until the onions are golden brown and a bit sticky, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook another 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and taste an onion for seasoning; add salt if you need to.
- Grease an ovenproof, 2-quart soufflé dish, and line the bottom with 2 pieces of the bread. Spoon a thick layer of onions and garlic onto the bread enough so that the bread is completely obscured. Top with one-quarter of the grated cheese, and another 2 pieces of bread. Make another layer until you have used all of the onions and the bread, but are left with ¼ cup of the cheese.
- Slowly pour in the stock, a cup at a time, until it is completely absorbed by the bread. Once it begins to overflow, you’ve used enough. Top with the remaining cheese, and carefully place the soufflé dish on a baking sheet.
- Slide the sheet into the oven, and bake until the panade has puffed up beyond the sides of its dish and the top is golden brown, about 1½ hours.
- Serve immediately in warm bowls.