29 March 2010

Cooking for People without Teeth

Having my wisdom teeth out really sucked. It hurt, it made me grumpy, but worst of all it dramatically limited my options food-wise. At first I could only have ice cream and creamy soup which might sound like the best time ever, but actually it got old really quickly. Yogurt, smoothies and kefir, which are all the same thing, came next. By friday I was feeling ready to upgrade something excitingly mushy. I consulted the Chez Panisse "Vegetables" cookbook and found a recipe for Panade. Call me sheltered, but I had never heard of such a thing. I read the recipe and couldn't imagine what it was getting at so I asked my friend Holly for a description. Her eyes rolled back and she sighed, "It's like brothy bread pudding with a cheese crust! Every time you pull a spoonful out, cheese stretches with it... There are silky bites, and crunchy bites... and so much cheese." Now that I had such a clear visual of what this dish was I knew I could make it, and also eat it.

It was a huge success. It tasted like something I would make even if I had a fully functioning jaw. And that is a big compliment, Alice Waters.

Onion Panade
adapted from "Chez Panisse Vegetables" by Alice Waters

6 sweet onions
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup madeira
1 1/2 quarts beef stock
3 springs of thyme
salt and pepper to taste
12 slices stale or toasted country bread
1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
1 cup grated gruyere

I used a large dutch oven for this recipe. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice onions into rainbows and caramelize with olive oil. Scrape the bottom of the pan frequently, and when the onions have taken on plenty of  color deglaze the pan with 1 cup of madeira. Separate remove the onions from the pan and set half aside in a bowl, and in another pan add the other half to the beef stock and let simmer. Break the bread slices into pieces and make one layer in the bottom of the dutch oven. Then layer on some of the reserved onions, then the parmesan, then one of the sprigs of thyme. Repeat this layering 3 times, and then ladle the beef and onion broth over the whole thing. The broth should come up an inch from the top of the last layer. Sprinkle the top with gruyere. Cover the pan and bake for 45 minutes, then remove the top and bake for another 45 until the cheese is toasty brown.

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