Breakfast Strata

dsc_0079RECIPE #394, DAY #569

FOUR STARS

ORIGINAL RECIPE: “Breakfast Strata with Potatoes, Rosemary, and Fontina,” from Cooks Illustrated, November & December 2001*

TIMING: 1 hour, then overnight, then 1 hour

DIFFICULTY: Easy enough but involved

TOOLS: A nonstick/cast iron skillet, 8×8 baking pan (preferably glass), etc.

COOK TYPE: Stovetop and oven

HEALTH: A breakfast strata sure beats cold cereal when it comes to health. And it isn’t completely out of reach, since it’s best to assemble it the night before and just bake in the morning. It is a bit rich, but you have egg protein and vegetables, which I usually find hard to sneak into breakfast.
dsc_0078EXPERIENCE: When I was a college kid, living off campus, I organized once-a-week dinners hosted alternately by 1 of the 6 ladies who lived in the house. We usually doubled our numbers and all crammed around an awesome roll-out desk in a fish-bowl dining room in our fairly nasty, old house. They were great times, and I have specific memories of a few meals.

One of these was made by roommate Kirstie. She whipped up a traditional breakfast strata for our dinner, which she called “Eggs Business.” It was perfect! Rich, complex, creamy, homey… Studded with mushrooms and herbs, it was an umami  wonderland. So next year, married and off on our own, I thought I could just look up strata and repeat the experience. Not. Happening.

I don’t know what her secret was, but I must have made a dozen breakfast stratas over the years that just did not measure up. After this last attempt–which came the closest–I sent her a message requesting the old family recipe. We’ll see if she can dig it up. Until then… this one isn’t half bad, really.

dsc_0077NOTES: There is a lot of versatility with stratas. Vegetables. Flavorings. Types of bread. The main thing is the get the ratio right, use stale bread, let set for long enough, and bake long enough.

***

  1. Preheat the oven to 225F.
  2. On a baking sheet, place 10 pieces Italian or French bread, not over-lapping. Bake about 40 minutes, until crisp. Spread 1 side of each piece with 5 tablespoons softened butter. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 12 ounces peeled diced Yukon Gold or new potatoes. Blanch them for 4 minutes, then drain.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoon butter in a nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the potatoes and brown for 10 minutes. Add 3 minced shallots and and cook until translucent. Add 2 pressed garlic cloves and 1 1/2 teaspoons minced rosemary. Stir for 30 seconds. Remove to a small bowl.
  5. In the pan, increase heat, add 1/2 cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc), and reduce to 1/2 cup. Set aside.
  6. In a mixing bowl, whisk together 6 eggs, 1 3/4 cups half and half, 2 tablespoons minced parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  7. Butter an 8×8 inch baking pan (preferably glass). Arrange half the bread, butter-side up. Cover with half the potato mixture, then 1/2 cup grated Fontina. Repeat with another layer of bread, the rest of the potato, and another 1/2 cup grated Fontina.
  8. Top casserole with the egg mixture and cover with plastic wrap. Weigh down the surface with bags of rice, boxes of sugar, or cans on a board. Refrigerate overnight.
  9. In the morning, preheat the oven to 325F.
  10. Remove the weights and wrap from the strata. Sprinkle with another 1/2 cup Fontina. Bake for 55 minutes, until puffed, golden, and firm all the way through. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

***

Serve with orange juice and a tomato salad.

LEFTOVER IDEAS: This can be reheated. I’m not really sure what else you would do with it. Reheated, it would make a fine breakfast for a couple mornings.

*Recipe changed from the original.

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