I was raised a meat and potatoes girl so I don’t often cook meatless meals, but I do enjoy them. So when I was tasked to make something for a meeting at work, knowing that some of the associates do not eat meat, I went to my tried and true friend Pinterest to get some inspiration. And, as always, I found a wide variety of options from which to choose.
I was intrigued by this recipe for several reasons: 1.) I’d never made a strata, [and was always intrigued to make it especially after watching one of my favorite holiday movies “The Family Stone” with the strata being a “Morton family tradition – lovers of the film know what I mean]; 2.) I love the combination of ricotta, gruyere and parmesan and; 3.) the recipe appeared to be very adaptable even for a nonintuitive cook like me.
This recipe originated from a website called onecaketwocake.com and I can certainly understand why since the finished product is almost like an egg cake. I adapted it by adding sliced baby portobella mushrooms (one of my favorite add-on ingredients) and doubling it for a 9 x 13 pan. I also added more cheese than called for, used kosher salt instead of table salt and opted for frozen instead of fresh spinach, although fresh spinach would be very good as well.
I was a little nervous to bring something to a meeting that I never made before but I decided to take a risk and try it. So here are my lessons learned and recipe rating:
Rating: A++ I always LOVE it when you make something the first time and it turns out perfectly. This definitely did. All of the work is in the prep (and I’ll get to that in my lessons learned) but after that you just let it chill in the refrigerator overnight and bake it off in the morning. I will definitely make this for dinner sometime. You know it’s good when the whole pan disappears, which it did. It looks good and tastes good. This is definitely a keeper recipe.
Lesson Learned 1: This takes a long time to prep, and I mean a LONG TIME especially if you grate the cheese yourself which I did. I had a slab of parmesan in the fridge as well as a slab of gruyere so I had to process both of them. I grated the parmesan in the food processor and the gruyere with my hand grater which added a lot to the time and extra clean up. There is also a lot of chopping, mincing and dicing from the onion to the garlic and the sun dried tomatoes, peppers and bread. I never realized how time consuming cutting the crust off a loaf of french bread can be. All in all this took me about an hour to prep and that surprised me. Was it worth it – DEFINITELY. Just be aware that this recipe has a lot a prep and set the time aside to do it.
Lesson Learned 2: Make sure you take the onion, garlic, spinach and roasted red pepper mixture (and in my case I also added mushrooms) off the stove and let it cool somewhat before building the strata. This is the only area where I thought the recipe directions could be clearer. Anytime you have anything warm to add to an egg mixture you either have to temper the egg mixture (slowly warm it) or let the warm ingredients cool somewhat so you don’t wind up with scrambled eggs. I found removing the veggie mixture from the pan and letting sit on a plate for just a few minutes got it to a point where it would not adversely affect the egg mixture.
Lesson Learned 3: Saute the mushrooms first for about 3-5 minutes then add the onions until they turn slightly translucent then add the spinach, tomatoes and peppers and cook until the pan is showing no moisture. The mushrooms give off a lot of moisture so you want to begin by sautéing them.
Lessons Learned 4: After the prep, the rest is a breeze. This dish could be a great holiday breakfast or simply a breakfast-for-dinner meal. You have to let the strata “cure” in the refrigerator overnight or at least for 8 hours so that the bread soaks up the egg mixture. Just cover it with foil once you’ve assembled it and forget about it. I love that part of it!
Lesson Learned 5: This recipe is very adaptable. I could see adding broccoli or asparagus or even zucchini to this. I think this might be a good clean out your vegetable bin recipe. Just be aware of the various cooking time of your vegetables and plan accordingly. For example, I might add asparagus uncooked or only slightly cooked into the mixture. Since the strata bakes for 50 minutes, it gives the more tender vegetables plenty of time to cook in that process. I may try that the next time and I’ll let you know whether it works or not. You could also add meat to this. I’m thinking breakfast sausage would be the best compliment. Just cook it three quarters of the way through, let it cool slightly and add it into the layers. Don’t worry, the sausage will cook through during the remaining 50 minutes in the oven. I do the same thing for my Ravioli Lasagna recipe and the meat turns out just fine.
Lesson Learned 6: If you want to make this for dinner, just prep it first thing in the morning and let it sit in the refrigerator all day. Plan to try to keep it in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
As you can see, I have very few lessons learned since the recipe is basically easy – it’s just the prep that’s time consuming. But what you’re left with is something that looks fancy, tastes delicious and comes out perfect the very first time you make it. Enjoy this one!
Three Cheese Strata With Mushroom, Tomatoes and Roasted Red Peppers
1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
3 TBS butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 packages frozen spinach (6 ounces each), thawed
3/4 cup roasted red peppers (jarred or homemade), chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
I loaf french or italian bread (approximately 1 pound or 10 cups), remove the crust
10 large eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 TBS Dijon Mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
2 cups gruyere cheese
1 cup parmesan (or more if desired)
Thaw frozen spinach. Once spinach is thawed, place in a cloth towel and wring out several times until all excess water is removed. Chop spinach and set aside. Make sure sundried tomatoes are soft. If not, cover them with boiling water and let them seep for 15 minutes and then chop them and set aside.
Over medium heat melt half the butter and sauté the mushrooms for about 3-5 minutes. Add the onions and cook the mixture until the onions begin to look translucent. Add garlic and stir for about 30 seconds. Add remaining butter. Stir in the spinach and pepper. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir until mixture is dry. Remove mixture from the pan and set aside to cool.
Cut bread (remove the crust first) into large cubes and place half in the bottom of a buttered 9×13 dish. Spread half of the spinach mixture on top. Take half of the ricotta and place by spoonfuls on top of the mixture followed by half of the gruyere and parmesan. Repeat the layering.
In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, cream, mustard and a half teaspoon of salt and pepper. Pour the mixture evenly over the ingredients in the casserole dish. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.
In the morning, take the casserole dish out of the refrigerator and let it stand while you heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the casserole for 50 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked through.
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