The first time I saw strata was in a little movie called The Family Stone. Sarah Jessica Parker made strata for Christmas Day and ended up spilling it all over the floor. I was still intrigued, though.
A strata is basically a savory version of bread pudding – an egg custard is poured over torn bread and various fillings. I’ve made quite a few versions of this. Some with chorizo, some with soyrizo, some with gruyère when I feel like spending $18 on 8oz of cheese. This time I went with a 4 cheese blend (cheddar, cheddar and mo cheddars) and Parmesan with spinach and onions.
This is a great dish to prep ahead of time and pop into the oven when you’re ready. This one sits in the fridge overnight so all that crusty french bread can soak up all that delicious savory egg custard and all the flavors can meld together. When you’re ready to bake, let it sit at room temp for half an hour then throw her in the oven for 45. Voila, magic – looks like you slaved all morning!
Spinach and 4 Cheese Strata
adapted from Gourmet
makes 6-8 servings in about 1 hour (+8 hours overnight hangouttimes)
1 (10-oz) package frozen spinach, thawed
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (1 large)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes (optional, but I like the little kick it adds)
8 cups cubed (1 inch) French or Italian bread (1 1/2 baguettes for me)
2 cups 4-cheese cheddar blend ( I used a blend with 4 different types of cheddar)
2 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup)
2 3/4 cups milk
9 large eggs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Squeeze handfuls of spinach to remove as much liquid as possible, then finely chop.
Cook onion in butter in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, nutmeg and chili flakes, and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in spinach, then remove from heat.
Spread one third of bread cubes in a buttered 3-quart gratin dish or other shallow ceramic baking dish and top evenly with one third of spinach mixture. Sprinkle with one third of cheese blend and Parmesan cheese. Repeat layering twice (ending with cheeses).
Whisk together milk, eggs, mustard, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl and pour evenly over strata. Chill strata, covered with plastic wrap, at least 8 hours (for bread to absorb custard).
Preheat oven to 350°F. Let strata stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
Bake strata, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes.
Optional step: I LOVE BURNT CHEESE EVERYTHING. I like to throw it under the broiler for another 5 minutes, just for extra burnt-yness.
Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Then do what I do and pick off all the best burnt cheese bits before anyone else gets to it.
You can really make this with anything. Add turkey sausage or chorizo, sauteed leftover veggies, gruyere cheese or mozzarella instead of cheddars. Just keep the ratios about the same and you’ll be just fine. You really have to try hard to mess this up.
I know… “frozen spinach, Holly?”. Yeah. It works fine here, but you could just as well use fresh.
If you love burnt cheese like I love burnt cheese, do the extra broiling step. It’s totes worth it.