Judy Rodgers’ Zuni Cafe Cookbook is somewhat of a holy text here in Gourmandistan—but, like any bible, it contains mysteries that sometimes test the faithful. A good example is the recipe for “Three Onion Panades: Chard, Sorrel, & Tomato.” Over the years, we’ve used all three varieties of panade to turn an overabundance of farm share greens, tomatoes, stale bread and about-to-go-bad chicken stock into a gooey, cheesy, rich meal. But at the end of this four-page recipe lies an almost apocryphal comment—a tiny p.s. saying “If you are blessed with too much panade, the refrigerated leftovers can be turned into an excellent, comforting supper” of “panfried panade.” According to Judy Rodgers, a wedge of cold panade can simply be sliced and fried in olive oil, resulting in a patty with “a golden crust” which can be served “piping hot with a salad of bitter greens, a poached egg, and sausage or bacon—or with nothing but freshly cracked black pepper and a glass of red wine.” As we always have leftover panade, we have tried this recommendation since the first time we made it. But, every time, instead of a firm mass that could be sliced into “wedges,” our leftover panade “wedges” had the consistency of badly beaten pancake batter. Dropped in hot oil, they would erupt in greasy, doughy spatters before grudgingly transforming into gray, oily cakes, with not a speck of “golden crust” to be found. But we did not lose our faith in Judy—instead, we sought counsel and fellowship on how best to follow her path.
This week, with a large bag of sorrel from the Bardstown Road farmers’ market begging not to be wasted, we again made a variety of panade. This time our recipe was a minor variation of this one adapted by Orangette from the Rodgers original. The only difference, as the Zuni Cafe Cookbook teaches, is that sorrel doesn’t need to be cooked down like chard does. You just put a chiffonade of raw sorrel leaves in place of the cooked chard. However, on a hunch, we made sure to make the panade rather dry, like the Orangette variation, using much less than the 4 cups of stock called for in the original text.
Once again, the leftover panade was refrigerated overnight. It was firmer than in the past, but still very moist. Then Michelle had the idea to form the cold panade into patties and dip them in the traditional triumvirate of seasoned flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. This time, the breaded panade patties fried up crusty and golden, with hardly a spatter or spit. Topped with a fried egg and plated with a green salad, we finally understood Judy Rodgers’ teachings. Panade, risen again.