By Sondra Fink
Cold-Weather Nourishment: Strata is Wholesome, Comforting, and Economical
Meet our new family favorite! Strata is not only delicious, it’s flexible. You can buy everything you need to make it and proceed. But even better, you can make it at the end of the week and scoop up all those wholesome little leftovers from other dishes. Then it’s your strata, your own something-from-nothing miracle. It’s great for dinner or breakfast, and wonderful hot out of the oven, or at room temperature in your lunchbox. It also needs to sit for a while before baking, so you can put it together in the morning and pop it into the oven at night, or some variation on that.
Here’s what you need:
Old Bread: About a ½ loaf of something – white is best – sliced about ½ inch thick. It can be the rest of that French or Italian loaf you got to go with the pasta. It can be the rest of that good-quality sandwich bread that may go to waste. I use my own homemade sourdough after it’s a few days old. If you’re using fresh bread, lay the slices out overnight to dry, or put in a 200-degree oven for about 20 minutes. There should be enough to make two layers in an 8-inch square (or similar) baking pan.
Butter: About 4 tablespoons, softened, plus some for greasing the dish.
Onions and/or Vegetables and/or Meat: You see what I’m getting at? I first made this with 8 ounces of sweet Italian sausage and 4 minced shallots, crumbled and cooked together in a pan. I also made it with a 10-ounce box of frozen spinach (thawed out) sautéed in butter along with shallots, salt and pepper. Now I just gather whatever cooked vegetables I’ve somehow accumulated over the course of the week—broccoli, mushrooms, kale, cauliflower, green beans, collards, bell peppers, bok choy, just about anything — plus an onion or some shallots or leeks or scallions sautéed in butter. Some sausage or bacon – scooped out of their rendered fat with a slotted spoon — or pickings of a leftover roast would also be great additions. But don’t overdo it – stick with one or two things plus something oniony, about 2 cups total cooked. Taste for salt and pepper.
(The Strata pictured is sausage, mushroom and onion.)
Cheese: You need 6 ounces, shredded to make 1 ½ cups. I like Gruyere or Swiss, but I’ve also mixed Parmesan in there, and Monterey Jack is also great.
Eggy Mix: Here’s the only hard math –
- 6 large eggs
- ½ cup dry white wine – simmer over medium-high heat until it reduces to ¼ cup, about 3 minutes. (If you just cooked onions or vegetables, you can reduce the wine in the same pan.)
- 1 ¾ cups half-and-half
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
Combine all the above, and whisk until smooth.
Assembly: Grease your baking dish with butter. (I use an 8-inch square baking pan, but any similar-sized dish will do.) Butter all your bread slices. Place one half of your bread, buttered side up, in the baking dish. Spoon over one half of your onion/vegetable/meat filling. Cover that with ½ cup of your grated cheese. Repeat layers with the rest of your bread, filling and ½ cup more of the cheese. Then pour your eggy mix evenly over the whole thing. The eggy mix should just cover the bread.
Important Part: Don’t bake it yet! Wrap it tightly in foil and place it in the refrigerator. Put something mildly heavy on top of it, like a bag of sugar or flour, or other food in different containers. You want to hold the bread down under the eggy mix so that everything absorbs together and gets all spongy.
Not less than 1 hour and not more than 24 hours later: Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Remove the weights, uncover the strata, sprinkle over the remaining ½ cup of cheese, and bake it for about 50 minutes, until it’s puffed and the edges have pulled a little away a bit from the sides of the pan. Cool for a few minutes on a wire rack, then cut into squares and enjoy.
In the late fall, I love this with some roasted yams on the side. What’s this got to do with skincare? Everything! Nourish your insides first. Your skin will thank you.
Check out more of Sondra’s thoughts at psycho-girl.com.