Sunday, June 10, 2012

Saturday Brunch

Breakfast Strata

I attended a lovely brunch over the weekend; this of course gave me a chance to show off my culinary skills!

A strata is a layered dish usually containing bread, eggs, milk, cheese, meats and vegetables. In other words, it is must-go opportunity! A strata can actually help you clean out your refrigerator, as it can be comprised of "must-go" food items. Must-go food items can be anything: leftover ham/bacon/turkey, cooked broccoli/asparagus, that bit of shredded cheese left in the bag that lingers around the pull-out drawer (just watch out for mold!) or that half a zucchini that you never got to cook up.

You dont even need a recipe! What you really need is to understand the milk to egg ratio; 1 cup of milk (any kind) needs 2-3 eggs to yield a nice fluffy custard.

Another important thing to know is baking temperature: Since most of the strata is basically a custard, baking at a lower temperature (about 350F) is crucial! Higher temperatures will cause the eggs to over coagulate; this will separate the proteins from the liquids yielding in weeping/synersis. It is very important to not overcook the dish (although you may be your biggest critic).

When is it done? When the dish has puffed over and the middle jiggles but is not wet (about 50-70 minutes depending on size). Good enough?..good!

Whole grain bread loaves from the freezer; cut them into 1 inch cubes and toss them in a bit of olive oil. Lay them on sheet pans and bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until crisp but not hard.

I had lots of spinach in the garden that wanted to be used up.

I sauteed shallots until caramelized; about 10-12 minutes over medium low heat. You can also leeks, sweet onions, red onions...whatever you need to use up really.

And here is the toasty bread! There was a couple pieces that just jumped into my belly.
Scallions, tomatoes, goat cheese, chorizo, spinach, shallots, eggs and milk. Layer over bread, making sure ingredients are submerged in custard; ok to press them down). Pan should be about 3/4 full, leaving anough space for rising. Bake at 350, covered, for about 1 hour.
This little strata was a hit at the brunch. A sweet lovely guest (a dietitian!) reported this version was much better than her mom's. Luckily, her mom did not speak any English, as she was sitting next to her when she told me. I was blushing; I did not know this at the time!  I think the secret is not overcooking it!

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