Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Serving Breakfast All Day

Just because I am not a morning person doesn't mean that I don't like breakfast. I just don't like getting up in the morning to prepare it. Sometimes, I crave pancakes, waffles, bacon, and eggs. Breakfast for dinner is not only satisfying, but can also be a lifesaver. Dutch Babies and omelets come together quickly after long days, and breakfast casseroles can be prepared one evening to just be slid into the oven on the next.

After another call last evening to sub at the school again today, I decided that a little advanced preparation for dinner would be a great plan. Spinach and Cheese Strata is made up of layers of French bread cubes, a spinach saute, and cheese, and drenched in an eggy custard to bake up puffy and golden. Hubby likes some sausage patties on the side, but I think that it is perfect alone or served with a fruit salad. This layered breakfast casserole is an impressive breakfast for overnight guests, but I won't hesitate to serve it all day long.

Spinach and Cheese Strata
1 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed
1 ½ cups onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
8 cups French bread, in 1 inch cubes
2 cups coarsely grated Gruyere cheese
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 ¾ cups milk
9 large eggs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Squeeze handfuls of spinach to remove as much liquid as possible, then finely chop.
Cook onion in butter in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and nutmeg and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Stir in spinach, then remove from heat.
Spread one third of bread cubes in a buttered 3-quart gratin dish or other shallow ceramic baking dish and top evenly with one third of spinach mixture.
Sprinkle with one third of each cheese.
Repeat layering twice (ending with cheeses).
Whisk together milk, eggs, mustard, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl and pour evenly over strata.
Chill strata, covered with plastic wrap, at least 8 hours (for bread to absorb custard).
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Let strata stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
Bake strata, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes.
Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
NOTE: Strata can be chilled up to 1 day; Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before baking. (Serves 6)

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