Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Breakfast strata with spinach and Gruyère

Posted By on Wed, Jul 6, 2011 at 10:53 AM

This delicious breakfast strata with spinach and Gruyere was served at a bridal shower I recently attended. Baked in a square casserole dish, it comes out of the oven brimming with bubbly cheese. Not only did we bridesmaids enjoy it during the bridal shower brunch, we also pulled it out again at 1 am for a post-partying snack.

It's a good thing the bride's mother was so nice to share the recipe with me because I just can't get enough of it. It's fantastic.

Stratas, not to be confused with frittatas (egg-based dishes like big baked omelettes) or quiches (egg-based dishes in pastry shells), are characterized by their baked layers of bread and cheese, and an egg custard sauce. It's sort of like a savory bread pudding I guess.

This recipe calls for dried or toasted slices of French bread. To save some time and also to avoid turning on the oven, I just sliced the bread a day before use and left the slices on a baking sheet in the cold oven overnight to dry out. You want to make sure to use dried-out bread so that it gives your strata some structure.

After resting a night in the fridge, the strata can be pulled out of the fridge, baked and be ready to serve within 1 hour and 20 minutes, which makes it a great dish to serve guests for a weekend brunch. All the mess and clean-up can be done the day before.

One more note, though the recipe calls for 8 tablespoons of butter – I was able to get away with just 4 tablespoons.

click to enlarge strata

Breakfast Strata with Spinach & Gruyere

From Cook's Illustrated

(My notes are denoted in parentheses and a *)

Ingredients:

8-10 slices of supermarket French Bread (1/2 inch thick) or Italian bread (*depending on the diameter of your bread, you may need more than than 10 slices)

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (* I only used 4 tablespoons total)

4 medium shallots, minced (about 1/2 cup)

1 pkg frozen chopped spinach (10 oz) thawed and squeezed dry

table salt

ground black pepper

1/2 cup medium dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc

6 oz Gruyere cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

6 large eggs

1 3/4 cups half-and-half

Directions:

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 225 degrees. Arrange bread in single layer on large baking sheet and bake until dry and crisp, about 40 minutes, turning slives over halfway through drying time. (alternatively, leave slices out overnight to dry) When cooled, butter slices on one side with 2 tablespoon butter; set aside.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Saute shallots until fragrant and translucent; about 3 minutes; add spinach and salt and pepper to taste and cook stirring occasionally, until spinach and shallots are combined, about 2 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl, set aside. Add wine to skillet, increase heat to medium high and simmer until reduced to 1/4 cup, 2-3 minutes; set aside.

3. Butter 8 inch square baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon butter; arrange half the buttered bread slices, buttered side up, in single layer in dish. Sprinkle half of spinach mixture, then 1/2 cup grated cheese evenly over bread slices. Arrange remaining bread slices in single layer over cheese; sprinkle remaining spinach mixture and another 1/2 cup cheese evenly over bread. Whisk eggs in medium bowl until combined; whisk in reduced wine, half and half, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Pour egg mixture evenly over bread layers; cover surface flush with plastic wrap, weigh down (* I used 2 bags of powdered sugar, laid side by side over plastic covered surface) and refrigerate overnight.

4. Remove dish from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature 20 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Uncover strata and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese evenly over surface. Bake until both edges and center are puffed and edges have pulled away slightly from sides of dish. (50-55 minutes -- or 60 minutes if you've doubled the recipe). Cool on wire rack 5 minutes, serve.

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