Panades are savory bread puddings, but instead of being moistened with egg, milk, or cream, as is traditional, here a Mediterranean mix of grated tomatoes and olive oil does the trick, making for a complex casserole.
As the dish cooks, the juices fuse with the bread, binding the interior. To help this along, let the panade rest overnight before baking so the bread gets a head start on the softening process and the cod’s flavor has a chance to mix with the tomato juices. Once baked, this panade has a wonderful contrast between its fluffy inside and crusty, roasty outside. The result is rich but bright, juicy and meaty from the tomatoes and salt cod.
For best results, choose the right roasting vessel (a heavy pan will crisp the panade’s edges properly) and pack your dish just high enough to give you one part roasty goodness on the outside to two parts pillowy softness on the inside. And, of course, use great, ripe summer tomatoes.
Before you start layering, taste the cod for salinity and adjust the seasoning of the dish accordingly. Also, for extra oomph, use the garlic oil from the Garlic Confit instead of raw olive oil. In such instances, I also toss in a few of the whole garlic cloves too, tucking them in somewhere between the tomato pulp, bread, and cod. Whatever you do, have fun with this one. Layering it together is good and messy.
Slow Fires by Justin Smillie
PREPARE THE COD, GRATED TOMATO, AND BREAD
Remove the codfish from the olive oil. Peel away and discard the skin and break the fillets into large pieces, following the fish’s natural seams. Set aside.
Place a large heavy sauté pan over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, pour in 1/4 cup olive oil and, when the oil shimmers, lay in as many bread slices as will fit comfortably in one layer. Fry both sides for 1 to 2 minutes each, or until golden and crisp. Remove the toast from the pan and, while hot, rub both sides with the cut, raw garlic. Set the toast aside and repeat the process with the remaining bread slices, adding extra oil as needed to coat the bottom of the pan.
Halve 3 of the tomatoes equatorially and grate them into a wide, medium bowl, stopping at their skins. You should have about 4 1/2 cups of pulp. Season the pulp with salt and pepper and set the bowl aside. Slice the remaining tomatoes into 3/4-inch rounds.
BUILD THE PANADE
Brush the bottom and sides of a 4-quart (13 × 9-inch) casserole dish with olive oil. Spread a thin layer of the tomato pulp over the bottom. Sprinkle on a few of the oregano leaves. If using garlic confit, smash 1 or 2 cloves and toss them into the dish.
Next, lay in the tomato slices, fitting them snugly across the dish (reserve a few for the top). Season the tomato with salt, pepper, another sprinkle of oregano, and some chile slices. Break up 2 of the toasts into bite-size chunks and scatter them on top of the tomato. Scatter half of the flaked cod and 4 garlic confit cloves, if using, around the bread.
Spoon more tomato pulp over the mixture and press down on the layers, compressing the panade.
Now add a solid layer of larger pieces of bread, followed by another scattering of oregano and chiles. Spoon around a little more tomato pulp. Gently press down to compress again.
Add a solid layer of the remaining cod, flaked into bite-size pieces. Scatter the remaining garlic confit and nestle in slices of tomato, as will fit. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.
Spoon over the remaining tomato pulp. Drizzle garlic confit oil or olive oil generously over the top, and finish with the remaining oregano, chile slices, and the lemon zest.
COVER AND REST
Tightly cover the casserole with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours so the flavors meld and the bread moistens.
BAKE AND SERVE THE PANADE
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Uncover the panade and bake on the center rack for 45 minutes, or until the top browns and the casserole is bubbling. Remove the panade from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. Top with the sliced parsley.
To serve, spoon the panade onto individual plates and serve with Herb and Scallion Salad (recipe follows) alongside, if desired.
OLIVE OIL–CURED SALT COD
MAKES 1½ POUNDS
I love this treatment for salt cod—first reconstituted in water, then poached and finally covered and preserved in olive oil. Once the oil permeates the meat, it takes on a velvety texture and a lingering taste to go with its gentle chew.
If you are not curing your own cod, simply soak the store-bought alternative until it no longer tastes salty before proceeding as instructed. The way you can tell if it’s ready is by tasting it, so flake off a piece and try it. If it’s not too salty, then you’re ready to smother it in oil.
SOAK THE COD
(If you have already soaked the cod as in the preceding recipe, skip to the next step.) Place the salt cod in a deep, nonreactive medium container. Cover with water and let it soak, refrigerated, for 36 to 48 hours, or until the flesh feels springy and tastes just a touch salty. Change the soaking water and taste the fish every 12 hours. If using store-bought salt cod, the soaking time may be up to 24 hours longer, though not necessarily—taste to see and replenish the water as necessary.
Remove the cod from the water and pat it dry. Discard the soaking water.
POACH THE COD
Set a small rack in a medium Dutch oven and place the fish, skin side down, on the rack. Add enough water to just cover the fish. Bring to a very gentle simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat until the bubbling subsides. Gently poach the cod for 9 minutes, or until its flesh flakes when prodded.
Turn off the heat and carefully lift the fish out of the water. Transfer the cod to a cooling rack and pat it dry. Let cool to room temperature.
PACK THE COD IN OIL
Place the cod in a container just larger than the fish. Add enough olive oil to completely cover the fish. Scatter in the peppercorns and lemon rounds. Bruise the bay leaves and add them. Cover the dish and refrigerate for 48 hours, or until the cod tastes buttery. Well sealed, the cod keeps, refrigerated, for 1 week.
MAKES 3 CUPS, INCLUDING OIL
When garlic cloves turn golden, the color of autumn hay, they have made the journey from astringent to sweet and sticky. These garlic confit cloves are savory candy, and their infused oil is delicious anywhere.
Preheat the oven to 300°F. In a heavy, lidded, ovenproof saucepan, combine the garlic cloves, peppercorns, bay leaf, lemon peel, and salt. Cover with the oil.
Secure the lid and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook the garlic for 1 hour, or until the cloves are very tender and light golden. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Use immediately or store the cloves, packed in oil, in a sealed container in the refrigerator. These keep for 2 weeks.
Reprinted from Slow Fires. Copyright © 2015 by Justin Smillie. Photographs © 2015 by Ed Anderson. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.