Hello, readers! It has been a few weeks since the last post. I hope spring has sprung where you live. We’re still waiting on it in Chicago. I haven’t retired my winter coat yet for the season, and that is always my barometer around this time of year. I was thinking this morning that maybe, just maybe, I’ll put away the winter hats, gloves and scarves. But I don’t want to jinx it.
Figuring out what to cook is tricky this time of year, isn’t it? My neighborhood farmer’s market is still many weeks away from opening for the season, and I can’t figure out what I’m in the mood to eat.
A few weeks ago, we decided to make ourselves brunch one weekend morning. I can’t remember why we did it, but it was a great idea. Brunch at home is fun.
For the main dish, we made a strata. My sister introduced me to this recipe (thanks, A!). She made it for Christmas morning a few years ago and it was a big hit. I’m typically not a fan of egg dishes, but this strata isn’t too egg-y, and of course, Gruyère cheese makes everything insanely good.
It takes a bit of planning because you assemble the strata the night before. Then, you leave it in the refrigerator overnight, pressing it down with whatever you have handy. I used some cans and a bag of lentils.
All you have to do the next morning is pop it in the oven. While it’s baking, you can get the rest of the meal ready. We ate this with a green salad and some fresh fruit. It was delicious! ~Inge
Spinach and cheese strata
Adapted just a little from Cook’s Illustrated
8-10 slices of baguette
3 tablespoons butter
4 shallots, minced (about ½ cup)
10-ounce package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
½ cup white wine
1 ½ cups shredded Gruyère cheese (or another good melting cheese)
1 ¾ cup milk
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet and sauté shallots about 3 minutes. Add spinach and salt and pepper (to taste). Cook for about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Pour the wine into the same skillet and simmer until reduced, for about 2 minutes. Set aside.
2. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish with remaining tablespoon of butter. Arrange half of the bread slices in a single layer in the dish. Sprinkle half of the spinach mixture, then ½ cup of the cheese over the bread. Arrange remaining bread slices in a single layer over the cheese, then sprinkle the rest of the spinach mixture and another ½ cup of cheese evenly over the bread.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs together. Then, whisk in the wine, milk, and a scant 1 teaspoon salt and pepper (to taste).
4. Pour egg mixture evenly over the bread layers. Cover the surface flush with plastic wrap and weigh down. Use whatever you have handy in your kitchen to do this (I used cans and a bag of lentils). Refrigerate the strata overnight. The original recipe indicates that you could also refrigerate it for 1 hour, but I’ve always done it overnight.
5. The next morning (or at least 1 hour later), remove dish from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes. Uncover strata and top with remaining ½ cup shredded cheese. Bake at 325 degrees for about 50-55 minutes. It’s done when the edges and center are puffed and the edges have pulled away slightly from the sides of the dish. Cool for about 5 minutes, then enjoy!