My Undying Love For Strata: 2 Ways

August 11, 2009

The strata at Rustic Bakery brings out the little pest in me. My chest manages to thunder down on a few bags of neatly primped granola as I lean up on the counter and catch a peek into kitchen. "Are we there yet?" is replaced by "Is the strata ready yet?"

And then followed by: "well, when will it be done?"

And then: "It's ok, I can eat it hot. Not really, it's ok"

"Still five more minutes?"

I can't wait longer. I can't. I need bready pudding, savory meats, melty cheese strings, eggs colonel custarded up. I need it. My belly is nowhere near empty. In fact it is quite full of a freshly baked and flaked ham and cheese croissiant that I so gingerly helped myself to 5 minutes prior. Oh was it delicious! But that was 5 minutes ago and now I am perturbed as I wait for my Strata...

- You must try some [Rustic bakery: Order the Ham and Cheese Croissant and the Strata - ignore the frivolous wrapping]

Strata reminds me of a wartime food. Really, it does. Take some old dry biscuits, a bit of salted/cured ham, sneak some eggs from the coup and some milk from the utter, and there you have it: Brunch!

So my friend Jacky of Chesblade/Omnieater, had a roaring birthday brunch atop a hillside, overlooking the haight-ashbury. Jacky's dearest man-of-many-wonders, Willie, took care for the spectacular cake (almond with buttercream and peaches) and homebrewed beer (fashioned with "jacky" labels) .

I, of course, tasked myself with feeding a small army with warm savory goodness. (I was convinced that, in the height on summer, not a single person would remember to bring a non-fruit bearing dish. My suspicions were dead on. Indeed. Win!)

Hence, I whipped up two stratas for the occasion:
1. A classic ham, leek, and swiss
2. A chorizo, queso fresco, and onion (Look at me, Martha a la Mexico!!!!)

I used the cook's illustrated recipe - perfect every time.

The framework is such:

The night before
*Cut up an 8 oz loaf of Acme Bread (I used a sour Loaf) into 1 inch slices (~8-10 slices).*Toast at 225F 40 minutes. * Lather generously with butter when it comes out hard and dry. *Cover the bottom of a 9x13 dish with slices. *Sprinkle on as much cubed ham, cheese, sauteed leeks in gobs of butter, and salt and pepper as you see fit. * Put another round of bread slices down and another round of fixings - hold the cheese. *In a separate bowl, beat 6 eggs, 1 1/3 c whole milk, and 2/3 cup creme fraiche and pour on top of bread mixture.*Cover bread mixture with plastic wrap. *Take a flat thing, like a large plate, that is just smaller than the pan and place it on top of the plastic wrap to weigh down strata. *Place the strata and plate in the fridge over night. Add extra weight on top of the plate using old cookbooks you don't read - like celebrity chef books that are crummy.

The next day *Pull the strata out of the fridge at least 1.5 hours before eating and preheat your oven to 350F.* Uncover the strata and allow it to come to room temp for 20 minutes and then sprinkle it excessively with cheese! *Bake for 55-60 minutes.

To eat *Use a large wooden spoon as to not burn you lips when you cut into the beautiful casserol and pile drive it into our mouth.

For the Mexican version, saute chorizo - at 8 ounces in a pan and drain the drippings befor eusing. Use a soft Mexican cheese - queso fresco for its bouyancy and fresh flavor (throw caution to the wind and forget about listeriosis says Jeffrey Steingarten).


Sam@BingeNYC said...

Yum...your ham-leek-swiss strata is calling my name!

Elra said...

Amazing, gathering. What could be better then this? Good food, good friends, and good scenery! Happy birthday to your friend!

Anonymous said...

i can just hear that dialogue. BTW: candied Okra does not a candied green bean make.

pigpigscorner said...

I've never had strata before but it cetainly screams confort fodo!

Maggie said...

This looks pretty fabulous, love the idea of including chorizo!

Mama JJ said...

I want to make this---it looks easy/divine/right down my alley.

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