Mustard in the Custard

2 05 2011

Longtime readers of this blog may remember my penchant for making breakfast strata on Easter.  And other times.  This year was no different.  Again looking to the contents of my fridge for inspiration, ham and cheddar sounded like a delightfully sandwich-y take on the strata.

Speaking of sandwiches, wouldn’t a little mustard be the perfect spice for eggy brunch sandwiches?  Monte Cristo breakfast casserole?  Ok, none of that sounds appetizing.  Let’s just say I put the mustard in the custard and get on with it.

mustard in the custard!

Layers: bread, caramelized onions (I seem to be incapable of making a strata without them), strips of ham, shredded Tillamook cheddar.  Repeat, finish with bread.  Custard: four eggs, two cups of milk, salt, pepper, a big spoonful each of grainy mustard and Dijon, and a few dashes of Tabasco sauce. Let it soak for at least half an hour, bake at 350F for an hour or so, and eat.  Champagne and Bloody Marys make perfect accompaniments.  I probably don’t need to tell you this, but it was so good.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Breakfast, Stratified

23 07 2010

I’ve written about breakfast strata once before, which is why I declined Nick’s initial suggestion to photograph my process.  But after cutting into and tasting this one, I was reminded how truly awesome a meal it is, and anything I can do to get more people making it is a good thing.

Strata (a fancy word for casserole, if I ever heard one) is a wonderful way to use up any odds and ends you may have sitting around in your fridge or on your counter.  It’s best with day-old bread, and is extremely accommodating as far as flavors are concerned.  Does it taste good with bread?  It will be good in strata.  Will it play well with eggs?  It will make a good strata.  I like to make it a square meal by including meat, cheese, and vegetables.  Some of my favorite combinations: sausage, cheddar, and mushroom; bacon, apple, and gruyère; and serrano ham, caramelized onion, and manchego.

This one was born of an excess of bread and picnic leftovers from Bastille Day.  Namely chorizo.  I also had some leftover enchilada sauce.  And a thing of cream that was about to go bad.  Appropriate cheeses (cheddar and manchego) and vegetables (onions and hot peppers) were procured, and I constructed the dish on Saturday night for Sunday’s breakfast.  Ok, brunch.

I spread the slices of bread with sauce and placed them in a layer in a baking dish.  I topped this with deeply caramelized onions and peppers, followed by layers of chorizo and cheese.  Another layer of sauced bread went on top, and the rest of the vegetables.  I held off on the rest of the cheese for the moment.  Then I whisked together some cream, milk, and eggs and slowly poured it over the top.  (I don’t use a recipe and you don’t need to either – just make enough for the bread to soak up.  It’s ok  if there’s a little extra, but if there isn’t, just whip up a little more custard, or do as I’ve done and pour more cream on top.)  This I covered in plastic wrap and weighted down very gently before letting it rest in the fridge overnight. 

In the morning, I removed the plastic wrap – duh – topped it with the remaining cheese, and covered the dish with foil.  I baked it at 350F for a little over an hour, removing the foil about 45 minutes in so the cheese could get nice and brown.  You’ll know it’s done when it starts to puff up.  Let it cool as long as you can stand.  If you’re like me, this is 15 minutes, maximum, just long enough for it to not burn your mouth when you eat it.

Enchilada Sstrata

And there you have it.  Yes, there’s a bit of time investment and planning ahead, but when the majority of the time is hands-off and the result is so incredibly satisfying, it’s hard to say it’s not worth it.

This particular enchilada-esque strata actually pulled double duty – we ate it for brunch with slices of juicy melon, and again for dinner a few days later with a crisp green salad on the side.  Now I want to make one every week.

On this day in 2008: The Great Duo of Avocado and Shrimp (There’s a kickass gazpacho recipe)

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Easter Brunch

26 03 2008

Usually we spend Easter Sunday with a bunch of friends, cooking up a big brunch, gorging ourselves on pork products, drinking champagne, and (last year, anyway) playing Wii.  This year, however, we were on our own (our current apartment isn’t exactly suited for entertaining, but the situation will soon be rectified), the Wii sitting idly in its box until we can procure a television.  As a result, we probably spent even more time than usual cooking ourselves fabulous Easter treats.  Strata has always been one of my favorite brunch dishes, and I am given to making it on holidays, since it takes some time to prepare, but most of the hands-on work can be done the day before.  We still had some Basque chorizo from the Salon in the fridge, so I decided to base this year’s Easter strata on that. 

First I had to track down some Basque cheese, and went to check out a nearby Basque-centric shop I had read about.  It seemed appropriate that the place was situated near the Pyrenées Métro stop.  The shop itself had a very weird vibe, though.  I walked in and the man there (the proprietor?), who was seated at a table, eating lunch, looked surprised to see me.  I asked if they had any Basque cheeses, since there didn’t seem to be any merchandise on display, and I felt as though I had just walked into someone’s home.  He said he did, and called to the back for his wife (or employee?  I really don’t know).  She came out, got a hunk of cheese from the fridge, and cut a small wedge for me.  Then both of them insisted that the ONLY way to eat this cheese was with black cherry jam.  I smiled and nodded and got out of there.

Cut to Saturday evening.  I had acquired a large bag of onions at the market on Thursday, and thought that caramelized onions would be excellent in the strata.  Nick, feeling industrious, took it upon himself to slice up about 4 onions and start them cooking right after dinner.

Onions, before  Onions, halfway there  Onions, after

Since we didn’t have any big plans for the next morning, I decided to put off assembling the strata until then.  Bright and early on Sunday, which was a gorgeously sunny morning, I woke up and got to work.  I buttered the baking dish and laid down slices of bread, like this:

Strata - first layer

There’s a prize for the first person to correctly identify the 3 slices of pain tradition (or tradi, as I just recently learned it is called colloquially).  On a side note, if you are ever buying bread in Paris, I strongly suggest you forgo the baguette in favor of the tradi.  In any given bakery, it is the bread that is given the most love and care in its preparation, and you can really taste the difference.  There is a bakery just down the street that somehow always has tradis fresh from the oven, still warm.  But I digress.  Back to the strata.

Strata - second layer

I topped the bread slices with a layer of onions, followed by layers of chorizo and cheese.

3rd layer  4th layer

After that, more onions and a final layer of bread slices – like a dish full of tiny sandwiches!

5th layer  6th layer

Then I beat some eggs with milk, cream, salt, and pepper.  I poured this mixture over the bread slices, making sure to coat each one.  I covered the whole thing with plastic wrap and weighted it down with the bag of onions in order to make sure the bread soaked up all of the custard.  (You can make this up to this point and let it sit in the fridge overnight, if you want.)  After an hour or so, it looked like this:

Oven-ready strata

I placed it in the oven and we waited, cleaning up the mess I had made and enjoying our leisurely morning coffee.  The total baking time was a little over an hour at 175C, and I rotated the pan halfway through.  And when it was done…

Baked strata - ready to eat!

We feasted!








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