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Panade is typically one of two different dishes: a thick paste used to bind other ingredients together or a baked casserole dish similar to traditional bread stuffing and French onion soup. While the word itself is used for both foods, the end result of each dish is quite different, with the former being used in other dishes and the latter being a complete dish. Both types of panade, however, are usually made with bread and can be excellent uses for leftover or stale bread.
When used to describe a moist, thick paste, panade is typically used to bind other ingredients together to make a final product. In this usage, it is often made from a combination of milk, flavored stock, egg, and butter along with some source of starch. While this starch can be rice, potato, or even wheat flour, white bread crumbs are often used in this preparation. The panade itself usually has about the same consistency as moist bread dough and is typically used to bind other ingredients together, such as shredded meat and diced vegetables, and can provide texture and flavor to a dish.
This type of panade paste is usually used sparingly, since an unbalanced portion of it when compared to the bound ingredients can overwhelm the other flavors and diminish the dish. The other type of panade, however, is a dish all on its own and requires no other binding ingredients or additives to be served. A panade that is its own dish is similar to stuffing in that it begins with bread that has been processed into crumbs or cut up into large cubes. This bread is the foundation of the dish and any sort of stale or leftover bread can be used, especially if it has hardened, since the process will soften the bread significantly.
The bread is used to cover the bottom of a baking dish or individual ramekins and other ingredients such as vegetables and shredded cheese are added. These are built upon each other in alternating layers of bread and vegetables until complete, and then broth is poured over the entire dish. The stale bread soaks up the broth, with much of the remaining broth being cooked out of the dish as it slowly bakes in an oven. This allows the final product to come out slightly soupy, with the top of the dish crispy and the bread itself taking on a smooth, velvety texture.