Suzi's Blog

Cheese Strata: Brunch Decadence

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Yesterday’s post talked about team building and brunch and families. Suzen has created a brunch menu that is targeted towards that first team you probably had: your family. Yes, you have fought and argued and scrambled with you siblings and parents. But, everybody eats. Every family.

Even my family almost always waved a white flag at meal time.

Here’s a center piece dish for your brunch. A cheese strata is a breakfast casserole that you can adapt to your own particular needs and preferences. The recipe below, for example, includes bacon as an option. You can add peppers, herbs, … The list is endless, the combinations all a miracle to the mouth.

Be sure to assemble this breakfast casserole the night before so the bread has time to absorb the egg mixture. For a special treat, you can use artisanal bread from a favorite baker and real Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for delicious results. In Suzen’s case, she uses homemade challah, soft and luxuriously eggy.

This recipe is from Entertaining Simple, an exceptional book. Yes, it has recipes for food, but it really has recipes for entertaining. If the thought of throwing a party gives you hives [or spasms], then you want this book. Everything, from the table set up to dessert, everything is carefully described and photograph. This is your guidebook to party success. No Maalox needed.

Cheese Strata

Yield: serves 10

Ingredients:

  • ·       3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ·       1 medium onion, thinly sliced (1 cup)
  • ·       4 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
  • ·       10 slices ¼ inch thick, hearty white bread, lightly toasted and cut in half crosswise or in ¾ inch cubes
  • ·       8 slices cooked bacon, chopped into -inch pieces (optional)**
  • ·       6 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1 cup)
  • ·       8 ounces Gruyere cheese, coarsely grated (2 cups)
  • ·       10 large eggs
  • ·       2 cups milk or Half & Half
  • ·       2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • ·       1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 425⁰F.

In a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the scallions and cook, stirring, until they turn bright green, about 2 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and let the contents cool to room temperature.

Grease the bottom of a large baking dish with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter.

If using bacon, line the bottom of the dish with half the pieces of bread (slices can overlap). Sprinkle an even layer of bacon on top of the bread. Spoon on the onion and scallion mixture and sprinkle with both cheeses. Arrange the remaining bread slices in overlapping rows on top.

If not using bacon, just put down a layer of bread. . Spoon on the onion and scallion mixture and sprinkle with both cheeses.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk until well combined. Whisk in the salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the bread in the baking dish. Gently push the bread into the egg mixture. Cover the dish with foil (butter the underside of the foil that will be on top of the food) and refrigerate for 8 to 10 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Bake the foil-covered strata for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for 20 minutes longer until the top is golden brown.

Source: Entertaining Simple by Matthew Mead

Photo Credits: Canon T2i, 18-55MM Macro lens, F/2.8, 1/80th second, ISO 400

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Three-Cheese Potato Gratin

2013_08_04_1648There are different kinds of comfort food, some simple, some complex. This rich potato gratin is something that delivers wonders in small doses. Just a few bites of this dish should satisfy your potato cravings. It takes a half hour to prep and the cooking time means that this dish will test your nostrils long before your actual palette.

I recently posted a Crab and Corn Bisque from The Domaine Chandon Cookbook and I mentioned that this soup deserved equally elegant dishes for the rest of the meal. This is one of those dishes, and from that same cookbook. The flavor is smooth, mellow, and just perfectly satisfying.

I’ve written the recipe below almost exactly as it appears in the cookbook, with one major change. I did add corn to my gratin, for flavor, color and because I had corn hanging around in my freezer and I was getting irritated with it. That said, the corn was a great addition.

The cheese amounts here are modest. You can increase any or all of them. Dividing ½ cup of the Havarti into four parts, and truly covering the potato layers each time, is a bit of a challenge.

The original cooking time was written as 45-50 minutes. I needed a full 85 minutes to get potatoes that were really cooked and not “chewy.” I sliced the potatoes by hand and did not use a mandolin. Why? I like my fingerprints. I’m terrified of mandolins. I don’t know if my “thicker” slices were the only reason for the longer cooking time, but I really did not mind. I had an open bottle of wine and time to wait. There are times to rush in life and then there are times to watch the sun going down.

Three-Cheese Potato Gratin

Yield: serves 4 as main course, 6-8 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3 pounds white potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ½ cup fresh shredded Havarti cheese
  • 1 cup corn kernels [optional]
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish with the butter.

In a bowl, whisk together the cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg. On the bottom of the prepared dish, p0lace one-fourth of the potato slices in a layer about ¼ inch thick. Top with one fourth of corn. Pour in ½ cup of the cream mixture. Sprinkle with one fourth of the Havarti cheese.

Repeat to make three more layers of potatoes, corn, cream and Havarti.

Sprinkle the top layer with Gruyere and Parmesan cheese as well.

Bake until the potatoes are tender and the top is bubbly and golden brown, 45 to 90 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the gratin to firm up. Serve warm.

Source: The Domaine Chandon Cookbook

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 18-55mm Macro Lens, F/2.8 for 1/50h second at ISO 3200