I'm makinga strata for brunch today. When I first started making these, I congratulated myself for being supercool because I was incorporating something from another culture, something that I didn't grow up eating, into my meal plan rotation. Now I congratulate myself for being superlazy because these are so easy and forgiving to make.
I don't really have a meal plan rotation. I just said that to give the impression that I still cook on a regular basis. Which I don't.
Anyway, if you've never made one, it is like a quiche without a crust but less puddingish and more cakelike. Everybody loves it.I guess for your first one, you should follow a recipe but the basic elements are these:
- stale bread
- custard made from 1/2 &1/2 and eggs
- some kind of meat or vegetable
- grated cheese
This dish is perfect for me because I have the talent for producing an attractive and delicious meal when faced with a larder that contains only an onion and some hot sauce. When I want to. Today I lucked out and found a plastic bag containing three small loaves of Italian bread that were mysteriously placed in the vegetable crisper. They were hard as a rock so I used them to make an onion-mushroom strata, except since I only slap in one layer of filling between the top and bottom layers of bread (sounds enticing, doesn't it?) instead of painstakingly layering smaller amounts of each, it's more of a singular strat, I guess. It doesn't matter! That is the beauty of it.
I do take care preparing the fillings. I caramelized the onions very slowly and then finished them off with some fresh thyme and 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Sami would plotz if he knew about the vinegar, but I am the decider and that is how I make them and he loves them. A professional ethicist might deem this slightly less than honest but... end, means - you know. It all works out and no one is harmed. In a seperate pan, I sauteed portabella mushrooms in butter and garlic. Now do you want some?
A little cheddar cheese, a little parmesan and a custard made of three eggs and 1 1/2 cup of milk and were ready to go. You're supposed to let this sit for 24 hours after assembly so that the bread absorbs the custard, but if I neglect to plan ahead, which is always, I just cover the whole works with plastic wrap and weight it down with canned goods for an hour or so. I find that two Progresso soups, one blackeyed peas and a marzipan are ideal for this step.
This is the real reason that I like to make these. I get a secret thrill from knowing that this kind of situation is going in in my refrigerator, even if it only lasts for an hour. I like the texture of the finished dish better this way than the 24-hour sit method. This way, the bread absorbs all of the custard but doesn't lose it's structure and what you have is something cakelike in the end. If you make it the recipe-recommended way, it comes out more dense and .. I don't know, wet. Or thick. Or heavy. Something like that.
Anyway, you should google up some real recipes if you're interested in making one of these.
- you can make filling out of anything you have hanging around
- uses up old bread good for nothing else
- takes good
- is made ahead so that you can sit around and socialize right up until the last minute of presentation
- gives you bargaining credits for "meals cooked this month" when you are making a case for Chinese food delivery
- lots of prep dishes to wash
- run the risk of no peace ever again if the Hub stumbles upon the discovery of the vinegar in the onions