Monday, January 30, 2012

strata for dayz.

Things my mom makes:  Quiche.  Chicken stir fry. Pork tenderloin.  Mac & cheese.

Things my mom also makes:  A lot of other things.  A lot of fancy things.  But these are the dishes I associate with normal weeknight dinners.  They are her version of simple, which inevitably still involves prep work and active kitchen time.  Have you heard?  My mom is a badass cook.  She puts GOOD MEALS on the table, even on busy Tuesday nights.  To me, quiche tastes like the hour between swim practice and homework.

The point: I made a strata the other day -- assembled it one night, let it sit in the fridge for nearly 24 hours, and then baked it the next night for dinner -- and was overcome with the feeling that it would become something I'd make for my kids.  It was easy and quick-ish and just...good.  It felt whole.  I portioned it with a spatula and scooped it right out of the casserole dish.  I don't know.  It tasted like a Tuesday night in a busy house.  I liked it.

Strata is like panzanella + bread pudding + an omelet.  Its sort of comfort food-y, but you can stuff that thing full of enough vegetables to at least sort of convince yourself that you're being good.  Its a great fridge-clean-out food: use whatever produce/bread/cheese/protein you have on hand.

If you are not a vegetarian and/or do not feel overcome with fear and loathing in Las Vegas when you see pictures of meat, please feast your eyes on the following:

POLSKA KIELBASA.  The perfect meat that isn't bacon.  Oh my god.  It's so good.  And it was SO GOOD in this strata.  Do not fear (or loathe, or Vegas) that it comes in a big ol' link in the supermarket.  Cut that sucker up and broil it on high for 15-20 minutes.  Gold.  Pure gold.

Spinach Strata with Polska Kielbasa
adapted from The Pioneer Woman

1 polska kielbasa, cooked and sliced (or 1 pound of whatever protein floats your boat)
1/2 load of bread, cubed
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
3 1/2 handfuls of spinach (this is an EXACT SCIENCE HERE PEOPLE)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
1 1/4 cup cheese (I used some shredded swiss and gruyere, as well as some goat cheese)
6 eggs
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

Over medium-high heat, cook the mushrooms and spinach down in the olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper.  When brown and wilted respectively, set aside.

In a bowl, mix the eggs, milk and oregano.  Season with salt and pepper.  Also set aside.

In a medium greased baking dish (casserole dish, lasagna pan, whatevs), layer half of the bread cubes, followed by half of the polski (that's what we call it at home), half of the spinach/mushrooms, half of the tomatoes and half of the cheese.  Repeat with the remaining half of all of the ingredients, ending with cheese.  Then pour the egg mixture evenly over the dish.

Cover with tin foil and let sit in your fridge overnight.  You don't HAVE to do this, but it is so worth it.

Remove dish from the fridge 15-20 minutes before baking.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  With the foil still covering it, bake the dish for 35 minutes.  Then remove the foil and cook for an additional 20, to brown the top.

Eat this.  Breakfast lunch dinner midnight been there done that eat this now.
Thank you and good night.

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