We're in a recession! We're out of a recession! Whatever the current CNN status is, your average eater is a little strapped and cautious at the moment...
So it seemed an appropriate time to address this comment:
What does the effing f o o d i e eat when she is home? Us humble ham 'n eggers want to know.
Short answer: Scraps. If it can't be finagled from rotating produce and pantry power, I'm probably not eating it at home...which boils down to lots of cold udon, bean soups and homemade pizza:
...and eggs. LOTS of eggs.
One may be inclined to blame the economy for my egg-sucking ways, but I've always been grossly fond of them. Those closest to me know that I adamantly believe EVERYTHING can be improved by putting an egg on top, and that the only thing better than brunch is brinner.
The recipe I'm about to share is totally money for the following reasons:
- It's stupid-easy, but to impressive effect.
- It can (and should!) be made ahead of time, for as many or as little people as you need.
- It costs mere pennies to make, and encourages scavenging/repurposing.
Yes and no, to all of the above. It's strata! Think savory bread pudding, but puffier and more custardy, with more egg than bread. It's the answer to your large-scale brunch-making prayers, the quiche-esque solution for those with no talent for crust-making or fluffing egg whites.
Don't let the golden-brown crusty look fool you--as intact and tough as that crusty bread looks in the picture, the long soak ensures that the whole is soft and yielding, with nary a trace of dryness. I served this bad boy with a spoon!
Some basic principles:
- Use stale or toasted hard-crust bread: It's time for that half a rock-hard baguette to shine! With the moisture drawn out, the bread will be more receptive to soaking up your custard mixture, making your end result puffier and crisper on the exterior, and more tender on the interior.
- Use whatever you have on-hand (or, whatever appeals to you at the moment): Magically, if you use whatever odds and ends you've got, your strata is likely to be just as delicious as if you choose to procure special ingredients. It's a recipe that dresses up as easily as it dresses down, whose success and eater-satisfaction is not dependent on pricey add-ins.
- Think omelette with your fillings: I.e., precooked.
Roasted/grilled/sauteed veggies, browned sausage, melting cheeses--nothing raw or weepy, as
you'll overcook your eggs trying to cook the fillings, or create an
excess of liquid that won't cook off in time (mmm, swampy strata).
- Give yourself time: Strata requires very little active preparation, but soaking = love. Rush egg/bread bonding time at your own peril. If you want to have strata for dinner, toss it together that morning or afternoon; if you want it for brunch, assemble the night before.
Classic Breakfast Strata with Arugula, Shallots and Gouda
Adapted by An Effing Foodie
Feeds 4-5 people, with the assumption of sides.
- 5 TBSP butter, softened (The Man's not partial to butter, so I used extra virgin olive oil, also tasty!)
- 8 (1/2-inch) slices stale crusty bread (French or Italian loaf)
- 2 medium shallots, diced
- 1 (10-oz) package arugula, washed and spun dry
- 8 large eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 2-4 shakes hot sauce
- 2 cups gouda, shredded (any cheese or combination of cheeses will do!)
- Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
Glass baking dish (8x8-in,11x7-in) or casserole/souffle dish (2 liter/2.2 quart)
2 to 12 hours prior to cooking:
If your bread's not stale, take the time to toast the slices now.
Grease your baking dish with 1 TBSP butter/olive oil.
Butter the bread slices with 2 TBSP butter/olive oil; set aside.
Heat remaining butter/olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high. Saute the shallots until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add arugula and saute until wilted, another 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Whisk eggs, milk, half-and-half, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, mustard, and hot sauce together; set aside.
Arrange half the bread (buttered-side-up) in a single layer in the greased dish. Evenly distribute half the sauteed greens and half the grated cheese atop the bread.
Pour half the egg mixture into the dish to coat this first layer.
Place the second layer of buttered bread, greens and cheese in the same manner, carefully pouring the remaining egg mixture on top.
Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate, allowing to soak for at least 2 hours, or up to overnight.
60 to 90 minutes prior to serving:
Remove strata from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature; about 30 minutes.
Arrange the oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350 degrees F.
Uncover the strata; if you have any extra shredded cheese, go ahead and sprinkle it on now.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until puffy and golden. (Consistency-wise, you're looking for crispy on the top and edges, custardy-tender inside.)
Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving with berries and bacon.
- Leftover sauteed veggies: Spinach, broccoli rabe, chard, mushrooms, corn, artichoke hearts, leeks
- Leftover grilled or roasted seasonal vegetables: Peppers, eggplant, butternut squash, pumpkin
- Chopped fresh herbs: Chives, basil, scallions, tarragon
- Crumbled bacon, browned sausage (Oooh! CHORIZO!), pulled pork shreds
- Lump crab meat, flaked smoked fish
- ANY cheeses: Cheddar, Jack, Gruyere, Emmanthaler, Parmesan, Pecorino, Brie...just be careful of the wetter cheeses like ricotta or fresh goat cheese (maybe use a lil less, or distribute in smaller dabs), and with the soft cheeses like brie, spread it on the bread in place of butter/oil.
Some recipes tilt things toward the sweet, so that the strata comes out like a panned french toast...to me, that's bread pudding, which makes a less helpful/healthful brinner.