Leftover Bread Series Part I: Dedas Kharcho
Post by Anna
Just when I thought I’d eaten leftover bread every which way — croutons, bread crumbs, French onion soup, the inevitable is-this-white-mold-or-flour moment from the loaf that’s been sitting on top of the fridge for too long — I tried this.
The dish was introduced to me as Dedas Kharcho by Canadian food writer Noami Duguid, whom I interviewed at The Grain Gathering this past August, in the bucolic Skagit Valley. Naomi, known for her global cookbooks, came across the recipe from a woman in Tbilisi, Georgia, where kharcho is eaten as a soup made of lamb, tomato, and fresh coriander. Since deda refers to mother, I can only imagine that her version — eggs and bread with fresh coriander and tomato, was a breakfast-y spin on some beloved home cooking.
The conference brought together hundreds of wheat farmers, wheat breeders, bakers, food writers, and anyone else excited about plenary sessions with names like ‘Breads in Braids’ and ‘Oats Can Make You Famous.’ And I get it. It’s tough times out there for bread enthusiasts, and these folks were like a bunch of kids in a candy store — er — granary.
Spending two days watching the painstaking science and labor behind craft baking only affirmed my anxiety about wasting perfectly good food. As any bakery or restaurant (my place of work included) will tell you, pounds of artful, delicious, and relatively expensive loaves are thrown out at the end of each day, when the miche or baguette or croissant reaches its culinary half-life. I’ve been on a lifelong quest to make-do with stale bread, always gravitating towards soups that resuscitate its lifeless form with hearty beef broth and Gruyere, or Parmesan broth with white beans and kale.
It takes the familiar shape of a torta, a quiche, or a frittata, though it is decidedly its own version with toasted, hardened bread cubes first fried in oil and softened by onions. It is then then soaked in a mess of more oil, egg, herbs, and whatever leftovers are around, all soaking into the bread’s unsightly crags. Ours was an excellent way to mop up a late summer’s dinner with sweet corn, tomatoes, and stewed chard, but in November, any winter accoutrements will do.
The result is a delightfully sponge-y, cheese-y square, speckled with caraway and poppy that is neither omelette nor toast, and better than the sum of its parts.
WHAT YOU NEED:
- 6 eggs
- 4-5 cups of stale, preferably seeded bread, torn into 1-inch cubes
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 large tomato, diced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/4 cup herbs (I used parsley and thyme)
- 1 cup of whatever vegetables you have around
- 1/4 cup Parmesan
- Salt and pepper
WHAT YOU DO:
- If using stewed greens, lay onto a cutting board and give them a few rough chops, to evenly distribute.
- Heat oil in a heavy, wide skillet or pot.
- Toss in the onion and garlic, set heat to medium, and cook until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add the bread cubes and turn for a minute or two to expose them all to the hot oil.
- Add about 1 cup of water and bring to a boil.
- Cook for a minute or so, and as the bread starts to soften, add water to just cover the bread.
- Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium-low, and cook uncovered until the bread is well softened (3 to 5 minutes, depending on the staleness of the bread)
- If using tomatoes, add them a couple of minutes after the water comes to a boil.
- Break the eggs into a bowl, add salt and whisk well, then add chopped herbs and black pepper if using, and stir.
- Add eggs to the softened bread mixture and stir a little to mix the eggs in. Continue to cook on medium low for a few minutes until the eggs set.
- Turn out onto a platter or into a wide shallow bowl, cut into squares, and serve with Parmesan and fresh herbs.