This is another recipe from Peter Berley’s cookbook Fresh Food Fast. Derek bought a loaf of white bread at the cheese store, and then left for the states before eating much of it. I tossed it in the fridge and then decided to use the stale loaf in this strata recipe.
- 6 large eggs
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1/4 pound whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 medium leeks, thinly sliced
- 3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil (I used 2)
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves (I only had about 2 tsp., so I added in another 1/2 tsp. of dried thyme leaves)
- 2 tsp. kosher salt (I used 1 tsp.)
- 1/2 tsp. freshly milled black pepper
- 1 pound portobello mushrooms, stems removed and caps diced (I used about 15 ounces of white mushrooms, with the stems)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 pound day-old, country-style artisanal bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
The basic strategy is:
- Mix together the eggs, buttermilk, cheese, and parsley in a bowl.
- Brown the leeks in a large, dry oven-proof skillet, then add the oil, garlic, thyme, and salt. Saute briefly then add the mushrooms and wine. Bring to a simmer and stir in the bread cubes.
- Pour the egg mixture over the top and stir to combine everything. Sprinkle the top with grated cheese, and bake at 450 until the strata has set, about 25 minutes.
If you want the full instructions, buy the cookbook!
I used a 12 inch anodized aluminum cast iron pan with 2 side handles. I’m actually not sure if it’s supposed to go in an oven at 450 degrees, but it looked okay when I took it out. Berley recommends a 10-inch saute pan, but my 12-inch pan was totally full, and it’s rather deep, so I don’t see how this recipe would fit in a ten inch pan.
I cut the salt by 1/2, and thought the salt level was perfect. If you like things more salty maybe use 1.25 tsp. I also cut the oil to 2 Tbs., and it still seemed perfectly rich. I didn’t measure how much parmesan I added, but it couldn’t have been more than an ounce. The flavor of the dish was good, and especially tasty when I got a big chunk of bread, but the more leek-y bites I didn’t care for as much. Perhaps I put in too much of the green part. The texture of the leftovers was good, but when it was just out of the oven I occasionally got a “soggy bread” bite. Perhaps I should have cooked it for another 5 minutes.
This recipe works well. The dish is beautiful to look at, holds together well, and tastes fine. Despite all the positives, I’m not sure whether I would make this recipe again. It took quite a bit of work, and despite tasting good, neither Derek nor I really wanted to eat any of the leftovers. I really don’t know why, but for some reason it just did not appeal to us. It took me about 35 minutes to get it in the oven, and another 10 minutes to clean up, plus 25 minutes to bake. If I had help I probably could have gotten it done in 20 minutes. Still, it didn’t quite seem like a weeknight recipe to me. There were just too many different ingredients to buy and chop.
I must admit, however, that the recipe is a nice dish for spring. I got new leeks and parlsey and thyme and eggs from the farmer’s market. The leeks had a very hard core, the texture of a stiff rhubarb stalk. I’d never come across a leek with a hard core before, and wasn’t sure if I should try to cut it up or discard it. I ended up saving it for vegetable broth (along with the leek greens, parsley and thyme stems, and a few bruised mushrooms). If anyone knows what to do with hard leek stems, please post a comment.
Berley suggests a spring menu of this strata and asparagus roasted with garlic and lemon. I think it sounds like a nice combination. However, at first glance it seemed kind of silly to suggest roasting the asparagus. Unless you have two ovens, you have to wait for 25 minutes for the strata to be done to start cooking the asparagus. Then I thought about it more and I realized that it probably takes 5-10 minutes to prep the asparagus and garlic, and another 5-10 minutes to clean up from both dishes. So in the end the wait isn’t really that long. Plus, the strata has to cool down for 5-10 minutes, which is just enough time for the asparagus to cook. Also, once the oven is on you might as well use it to roast the asparagus. Perhaps you can even cook both dishes in the oven at the same time? Another option would be to just steam the asparagus on the stovetop.
Berley doesn’t say how many this strata recipe serves, but it’s quite large. I think with 3 bunches of asparagus this dish would serve eight.