This morning, I tried my first time at making a Strata. Now, for those of you that don't know the difference between a strata and a frittata, here is your basic run down on egg dishes:
1. An omlette is an egg dish made with with meat, veggies, and/or cheese on your stove top. Toppings are folded into the outer egg lining sort of like a burrito or a calzone.
2. A frittata is much like an omlette but the egg and other ingredients are all mixed together and then baked in the oven to set.
3. A Quiche is basically a frittata but is baked in a pie crust.
4. A Strata is an Italian breakfast casserole that takes chunks of cubed French or Italian bread, mixes the ingredients together in a casserole dish and then you pour the egg mixture over the whole thing so that the bread soaks it up and binds all of it together.
Now, I will admit that the Strata making process is a little labor intensive, but oh man was it worth it and fun to prepare. Unfortunately, I loaned my camera to a friend or I would have taken a picture of the gorgeous finished product. As the strata bakes it rises up into this beautiful golden display - lightly crisp and chewy on the outside, moist and delicious on the inside. And it smells incredible while it is baking. Did I mention it was beautiful and delicious?
This particular strata recipe calls for a mixture of spinach, onions, gruyere and Parmigiano-reggiano cheeses. For the meat I used chicken breakfast sausage from Trader Joes which was perfect. Additionally, the recipe includes instructions for preparing this recipe such that it reserves a portion for meat eaters and vegetarians alike - thus earning it's title: Double-Sided Strata.
This is one that you can't quite whip together in a hurry. Prepping all of the ingredients only takes about 15-20 minutes, but then you have to let it rest for 30 while the bread soaks up the egg mixture, then bake it for another 45 to 50 minutes, and don't forget to let it rest another 5 minutes at least after you take it out of the oven. But it was all so worth it for the cheesy gooey goodness it produced. I now have an open standing offer for anyone else that wants to move to California, I will be happy to make this awesome strata for you as well. Now isn't that an offer that's hard to turn down? Any takers?
1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (1 large)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 cups cubed (1 inch) French or Italian bread (1/2 pound)
2 cups coarsely grated Gruyere (about 6 ounces)
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 2 ounces)
1 cup cooked breakfast sausage, ham, or shredded meat (optional)
2 3/4 cups milk
9 large eggs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Squeeze handfuls of spinach to remove as much liquid as possible, then finely chop.
Cook onion in butter in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and nutmeg and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in spinach, then remove from heat.
In a large bowl, toss together the bread cubes, spinach mixture, 1 3/4 cups of the Gruyere, and 3/4 cup of the Parmigiano. Transfer 1/2 of the bread mixture to another bowl and toss with sausage.
Line a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with several pieces of foil, to form 2 enclosed sides, building a "dam" of foil down the center crosswise. Butter the foil. Put the "vegetarian" mixture in 1 side, and the "meat-eaters" mixture in the other.
Whisk together milk, eggs, mustard, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl and pour evenly over each side. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Gruyere, and 1/4 cup Parmigiano. Let the strata sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Bake strata, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.