I have a brunch coming up next week and I’ve been experimenting with breakfast stratas (Is that the correct plural for strata? My spell checker is being a little edgy about the “s”.)
There are, I’m finding, a lot of mediocre strata recipes out there, particularly if you plan to skip sausage as an ingredient. I tried one that had high praise from many many many reviewers and it was just plain mushy–even with day-old bread. Awful. So, then, I tried another recipe. Meh.
Then…there is was. Spinach and cheese strata based upon a old Gourmet Magazine recipe. (The loss of Gourmet Magazine was a category 5 catastrophe for cooks in my opinion.)
What is so good about this recipe? The mix of gruyere and parmigiano-reggiano is a perfect blend, (Costco has a good gruyere at a reasonable price that I used for this recipe.) The egg custard flavored with a bit of Dijon has a good texture and just the right amount of bite. The spinach and onion give the dish just the right mellow savory taste.
Cook’s Note: I’ve made this several more times since posting this recipe and find that the amount of custard you need to use is quite variable depending upon the denseness of bread you use. In my last strata, I held out a good cup and a quarter of the egg custard mix. I would recommend that you pour the custard slowly over the bread/cheese/spinach base but stop short of using the whole amount. To my taste, you don’t want to have the mixture awash in liquid.
Ingredients: Spinach and Cheese Strata
1 ten ounce bag chopped frozen spinach (thawed and water squeezed out)
3 T. unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion (chopped)
6 ounces coarsely grated Gruyere
8 C. (1/2 pound) Italian sandwich bread (cut into 1-inch cubes) I used Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane bread and dried it out in the oven at 200 degrees for a half an hour before using it. This might not be a necessary step if you are using day-old bread.
2 ounces finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
9 large eggs
2 3/4 C. half-and-half (or milk)
2 T. Dijon mustard
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1/4 t. freshly- grated nutmeg
Thaw spinach and squeeze as much of the liquid out of the spinach as you can. Set aside.
Melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté for about 5 minutes until onion is soft and translucent. Stir onion frequently to keep it from burning. Add 1/2 t. salt, 1/4 t. pepper and nutmeg. Add the chopped spinach, stir and remove mixture from heat.
In a 3-quart buttered baking dish, spread one third of the bread cubes evenly over the dish. Spread one third of the spinach/onion mixture over the bread cubes and then sprinkle one third of each of the cheeses over the top of the spinach. Repeat this layering twice, ending with grated cheese.
Whisk eggs in a large bowl. Add half-and-half (or milk), mustard, and remaining salt and black pepper. Whisk the mixture until it is well-combined. Pour this egg custard mixture over the strata, distributing the custard as evenly as possible.
Cover strata with saran wrap and press down on the mixture to be sure the egg custard is evenly distributed and covers the bread. Refrigerate overnight. Remove from refrigerator 1/2 hour before baking.
In a preheated 350 degree F. oven, bake the strata (uncovered) until it is puffed, set and a light golden brown all over the top. This will take 45 to 55 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let the strata stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Here is the link to the original recipe from Gourmet Magazine: