Two Stratas

by Kelly on November 16, 2011

I’m kind of embarrassed that as of yesterday, I’ve been at my current company three months and haven’t yet mentioned how awesome my co-workers are.  Before I started my job I was fortunate enough to meet a few of them through a good friend who already worked there.  Because of this I had a hunch I’d fit in, but I’m glad my time there so far has confirmed my hopes.

One of the things I especially love is we’re quite a foodie bunch.  My department has been known to have Iron Chef battles and we also have a breakfast club that I’m especially fond of.  Essentially, each week we take turns bringing breakfast for the group.  We’ve had quite a range of offerings from a rice dish called Kedgeree prepared by my British boss to made-to-order French Toast.

By the time my turn rolled around I had already changed my mind about what I wanted to bring nearly a hundred times.  Eventually I decided on strata.  For me, it’s the perfect marriage of practicality and flavor.  Being decidedly NOT a morning person I love that I can do the bulk of the prep work the night before and simply bake it off in the morning.  In fact, I think it makes the dish better as the flavors have a chance to seep into the bread.

I opted for two different versions.  The first, an Apple and Gruyere Strata, made great use of the apples I picked back in October.  With its marriage of apple, cheese, and cinnamon swirl bread it has a delightful balance of sweet and savory.  It also really lets the fuji apples shine.  They’re pleasantly tart, which is a nice contrast to the sweet bread, and hold their texture well even after baking.

For my second strata, I used mushrooms, leeks and a mixture of cheeses.

Mushroom Leek and Cheese Strata

One of my friends described this dish as ‘a warm hug’ and I think that description fits it perfectly.  It’s oh so moist and custardy and a bit rich, but without being heavy.  It’s also a fantastic dish if you’re a mushroom lover like me.  Their earthy, meaty flavor is front and center, especially with a generous amount of truffle salt.  (This is optional and I imagine this dish would still be addicting without it, but a drizzle of truffle oil at the end would also work well.)

Mushroom Leek and Cheese Strata-2

Whichever you choose to make, they are entirely addictive as evidenced by the fact there wasn’t a single bite left post breakfast.

And for those of you who caught my entry for The Sweeter Side of Shrooms contest - Candy Cap Mushroom Sponge Candy, Marx Foods has now posted the entire list of entries and has opened their poll for voting.  Feel free to head here to see all the creative ways the mushrooms were used and to vote for my entry if you should feel so inclined.

Apple and Gruyere Strata
Adapted from Cooking Light
Serves 8

Ingredients:

-4 cups sliced, peeled cooking apples (like fujis)
-2 teaspoons butter, melted
-6 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
-1 package cinnamon swirl bread (such as Pepperidge Farm)
-1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
-1 cup milk (I used whole)
-1/2 cup half and half
-4 eggs
-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (optional)
-Maple syrup for serving

Method:

Combine apples, butter, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a large bowl; toss gently.

Arrange half of bread in an 11 x 7-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spoon pear mixture evenly over bread; top evenly with cheese. Arrange remaining bread over cheese.

Combine the remaining 5 tablespoons granulated sugar, milk, half and half, eggs, and cinnamon, stirring with a whisk. Pour milk mixture over bread, pressing down to submerge. Cover and chill 8 hours or overnight.

Remove the strata 30 minutes before baking and bring to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Uncover dish. Sprinkle turbinado sugar evenly over bread. Bake for 55 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut into 8 equal pieces; drizzle with syrup.

Mushroom, Leek and Cheese Strata
Adapted from Epicurious
Serves 8

Ingredients:

-1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
-3/4 cup sliced leeks, throughly washed
-1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps sliced
-1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
-1 1/2 teaspoons truffle salt, divided (can be replaced with sea salt)
-3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
-2 1/4 cups whole milk
-1 1/2 cups half and half
-5 large eggs
-2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
-3 garlic cloves, chopped
-8 cups (packed) 1-inch baguette pieces
-1 1/2 cups (packed) grated Parmesan cheese (about 4 ounces)
-2 1/2 cups (packed) grated Fontina cheese (about 10 ounces)

Method:

Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add leek and saute for 3 minutes, or until they start to become translucent. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Cool.

Whisk the milk through garlic cloves in a medium bowl until well combined.  Season with remaining salt and pepper.

Place half of bread mixture in single layer in prepared glass baking dish (bread will not cover bottom of baking dish). Top with half each of mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, Fontina cheese, and milk mixture. Repeat layering with remaining bread, mushrooms, Parmesan and Fontina cheeses, and milk mixture. Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Remove the strata 30 minutes before baking and bring to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake strata uncovered until firm in center, puffed and golden, about 1 hour.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

shannon November 16, 2011 at 1:14 pm

love the sounds of that first one–a warm hug :) and how awesome are your co-workers! sounds like alot of fun!

Reply

Kelly November 19, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Shannon – I agree. Any food that gets described as a warm hug is delicious in my book. I just wish I could lay claim to that language. And yes, my co-workers are pretty awesome. I really enjoy working with such a foodie bunch.

Reply

christo November 16, 2011 at 6:17 pm

you’ve sold me – I am a total mushroom lover – looks and sounds great!

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Reeni November 16, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Both your stratas sound wonderful! I admit I’m partial to the Apple and Gruyere version. Your lucky co-workers – I can see why this disappeared without a trace! I’m on my way to vote.

Reply

Kelly November 19, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Reeni – Thanks for the vote. I very much appreciate it. I’m partial to the apple and gruyere too. I’m always a sucker for anything that has a sweet and savory balance, it’s just a little more interesting to me than 100% savory or 100% sweet.

Reply

Carolyn Jung November 17, 2011 at 9:12 pm

What a wonderful idea for you all to take turns bringing in breakfast. After all, you never get to know someone so well as over good food and good conversation. ;)

Reply

Kelly November 19, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Carolyn – Exactly. I was once doing research for work on family mealtimes and a lot of mothers would talk about how their children would open up more at dinner and talk about things they never would were there no food on the table. I think there is just something about sharing a meal that opens people up.

Reply

Hannah November 18, 2011 at 12:06 am

I’ve actually never made a strata before, but something baked that includes that much bread and any sort of veggies your heart desires certainly can’t be too bad. I love the sound of that multi-mushroom and leek combination especially… I’m very tempted to investigate the possibility of a vegan strata now!

Reply

Cara November 18, 2011 at 9:57 pm

I’m so jealous that you’re having such a great time with your coworkers… wish I could say the same!

Reply

5 Star Foodie November 20, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Two amazing stratas! I love the mixture of sweet and savory in the apple one!

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