A panade is one of those dishes that is way better than it has any right to be — or than it looks to be. It’s an assembly of day-old bread, shredded cheese, and handy pantry ingredients (in this case, white beans, Swiss chard, and sausage) that gets doused with broth and baked until bubbly, like a savory bread pudding meets French onion soup. Not quite a soup and not quite a casserole, it’s something more: the best of both worlds.
INGREDIENTS (SERVES 6 TO 8 AS A MAIN DISH, OR 8 TO 10 AS A SIDE DISH)
1 (1-pound) loaf day-old crusty country bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces uncooked pork sausage, casings removed
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium bunch Swiss chard (about 12 ounces)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans (3 cups beans), drained and rinsed
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 ounces), divided
4 cups (32 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth
Coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves (optional)
Dry out or toast the bread cubes.
To dry out, place bread on a rimmed baking sheet and let sit out to dry at room temperature, stirring once or twice, at least 8 hours or overnight.
To toast, place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a 375°F oven until toasted, stirring halfway through, about 20 minutes total.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering.
Add the sausage and onion and cook, breaking up the sausage into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until the sausage is cooked through and the onions are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop the chard stems into 1/2-inch pieces, thinly slice the chard leaves, and keep the stems and leaves separate.
Add the chard stems to the pan and cook until the stems are softened, 3 to 5 minutes more.
Add the chard leaves, garlic, and thyme, and cook until the leaves are wilted and tender, about 4 minutes more.
Remove the pan from the heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Place 1/3 of the bread cubes (about 4 cups) in an even layer in a 6-quart or larger slow cooker.
Scatter 1/3 of the chard mixture (about 1 cup) and 1 cup of the beans over the bread.
Scatter 2/3 cup of the cheese over the entire layer.
Repeat with layering in this order in the same amounts: bread, chard mixture, cheese, remaining bread, and remaining chard mixture.
Refrigerate the remaining 2/3 cup of cheese.
Pour the broth evenly over the top of the panade.
Cover and cook on the HIGH setting for 4 to 6 hours, or on the LOW setting for 8 hours.
Sprinkle the reserved 2/3 cup cheese over the top of the panade in the last 15 minutes of cooking.
Serve in bowls, garnished with parsley if desired.
Make ahead: The sausage and chard mixture can be cooked up to 1 day ahead, cooled, and refrigerated until ready to assemble. The bread can be dried or toasted up to 1 day ahead.
Storage: Freeze leftover panade in individual containers. Reheat in the microwave on HIGH for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring once or twice during cooking.
Oven directions: Assemble the panade in a 9×13-inch casserole dish or Dutch oven. Cover with aluminum foil or a lid and bake at 350°F for 45 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese, and continue baking uncovered for 15 minutes more.