Friday, March 12, 2010

Spinach Mushroom Strata

serves 6-8


Whenever I have leftover heels of bread that no one wants, or inedible slices that sat too long and are no longer even toastable, strata is my first thought. Strata is a savory bread pudding that is wildly flexible in its ingredients—whatever flavors, meats and vegetables you are craving, you can put them in a strata (though I don’t recommend putting broccoli in a breakfast strata—that didn’t go over very well, even with me). The basic premise is that you break your stale, leftover bread into cubes, cook up some meats and vegetables, make an egg-milk-cheese mixture, then toss it all together and bake it. Many people love stratas (strati?) because they are great make-ahead foods: assemble it the night before, bake it in the morning. Though the bread is able to soak the juices up better overnight, I don’t find that omitting this step does any harm to the native deliciousness of the dish. So try the recipe below, and next time choose your own meats, vegetables and cheeses. And when you’re craving a sweet bread pudding, go here.

1 (16 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeeze of all excess liquid

1 large onion, chopped

1 package sliced mushrooms

3 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

8 C cubed French or Italian bread in 1-inch cubes (I use whole wheat because that’s all we ever eat at home)

2 C grated gruyère or jarlsburg cheese

1 C grated parmesan cheese

1 3/4 C milk

1 C half and half

8 large eggs

Sauté onion in butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook (I like to cover it) until mushrooms release their juices (6-8 minutes)  Stir in spinach, remove from heat and set aside.

While this is cooling, whisk eggs, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg together in a large bowl. Spread one third of the bread cubes in a well-buttered 9x13 pan or other ceramic baking dish. Top with one-third of one-third of spinach mixture and one-third of each cheese. Repeat layering twice with remaining bread, spinach and cheese. Pour the egg-milk mixture evenly over strata. Or you can just mix it all up in the stinkin’ bowl like I did (and always do):


But then, technically, we can’t call it strata (“layers” in Italian). This would be the time to cover it and stick it in the fridge if you’re planning on baking it the next day. If so, let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking. If not, preheat the oven to 350°F and bake strata, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 40 to 50 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.



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