Spinach and Cheese Strata
I love brunch. I’m not a morning person and I’m not usually hungry when I first wake up, especially on weekends, so brunch is perfect. It has delicious breakfast fare – with lots of choices – but at a respectable hour. I don’t enjoy brunch as often now that we live in the ‘burbs but brunch was a big deal when I lived in New York. People would wait for hours to get a table at some of the hot brunch spots. There is something relaxed and enjoyable about brunch, especially for people who are used to rushing around. The table is filled with cups of coffee, mimosas, side orders and entrees. Everyone is waking up, recounting the previous night’s escapades, easing into the day and not worrying about the errands or chores that need to be done later. Brunch menus have something for everyone: gooey egg dishes, decadent french toast, savory salads, light and fluffy pancakes, and more yummy egg dishes. I love hearing what everyone orders because people are usually a sweet brunch person or a savory brunch person. I usually go for eggs of some sort but I also have a sweet tooth so it’s nice to have something sweet on the side.
The best thing about making brunch at home is I get to have a little bit of everything I like! Hosting brunch is a fun way to entertain and catch up with friends without the pressure of a dinner party. One of my go-to brunch dishes is a strata. My sister-in-law first introduced me to stratas and I was immediately hooked. It’a a baked egg and bread dish you prepare the day before, let it sit in the fridge overnight for the egg to soak into the bread, then you pop it in the oven before your guests arrive. The options are almost endless: you can use your favorite type of cheese, whatever veggies you have in the fridge or freezer and can add bacon or sausage if you really want to gild the lily. I’m not sure when I started making this spinach and cheese strata but it’s been one of my favorite brunch dishes ever since. It’s delicious anytime of year and the leftovers are great paired with a salad for lunch or dinner.
My favorite brunch at home always includes this strata, a sweet coffee cake or muffin (or a coffee cake muffin) and a fruit platter. Add a pot of coffee and mimosas and you’ve got yourself a simple, satisfying and delicious brunch. Now all you need is friends to enjoy it with.
Are you a sweet or savory kind of brunch person?
Spinach and Cheese Strata
adapted from Gourmet, via Smitten Kitchen
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
one large yellow onion, finely chopped
1, 10 oz package chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess liquid
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 cups Italian bread cut into 1″ cubes
2 cups coarsely grated Gruyere cheese, about 6 oz
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 3/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Melt butter in a large saute pan oven medium heat. Saute onions until soft, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and the nutmeg and cook for one more minute. Stir in spinach, breaking up, and remove from heat.
Butter a 3-quart ceramic baking dish. Add one third of the bread cubes to the baking dish, top with one third of the onion/spinach mixture and one third of each cheese. Repeat layering with remaining bread, onion/spinach and cheese.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Pour evenly over the strata. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate at least overnight and up to a day.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Take strata out of fridge and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake strata, uncovered, in center of oven until puffed, golden and cooked through, about 45 to 55 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.