Strata – A Savory Bread Pudding

Quiche

Quiche

My friend, Cindy, who I used to work with at MGM Studios in the accounting/finance department, asked me to send her recipes for Strata and Quiche.  She will be traveling with her boyfriend to London and Paris and wants to make a nice breakfast for him one day.  I just hope she goes out to eat in Paris every day that she’s there because she’ll be in the culinary capital of the world, being in France.  Since I put a lot of time into writing out the strata recipe, I wanted to share part of my message to her with you.

In class, I made a beautiful quiche.  It was cooked perfectly, however, I didn’t enjoy eating it.  The quiche we made was so plain and boring.  I like a quiche with more personality and texture.  A good quiche-like dish I’ve made several times for people comes from Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe repertoire, a Pancetta Parmesan Torte.  It’s super easy. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/pancetta-and-parmesan-torte-recipe/index.html.  I usually serve it with a side salad or as a starter.

Strata

Strata

As for the strata recipe… when I learned how to make it in class, we made it in disposable tin pans which were about 2″X6″ (big estimate) — they were mini bread pan tins which we were able to cut to force out the strata. For our class’s breakfast buffet,  I made a massive strata which fed a group of about 50-70 people.  We didn’t cut it up.  We just scooped it out of the serving dish, so you can scoop it out if you multiply the recipe and can’t force the strata out of the pan… I will give you the recipe that I learned and if you want, you can double or triple it and use a regular-sized bread pan…  For some reason, we were given a different recipe in our recipe packet.  On the day that we made this in class, we learned a completely different recipe.

Here it is.

Serving Size – 1 or 2

Strata (this is a savory bread pudding)

Ingredients

1/4 French baguette, cut in 1 inch cubes (bread that has been sitting out, even stale bread works best)
3 Eggs
4 oz. Milk
1/2 Italian sausage (casing removed)
4 Mushrooms, diced
3 Slices of good, thick-sliced Bacon (regular bacon is fine too)
1/4 Onion, chopped macedoine (1/4″ X 1/4″ X 1/4″)
2 oz. Cheddar, shredded
2 oz. Butter

Directions

1- Prepare loaf pan. Heavily spread and coat butter in loaf pan to ensure that the strata does not stick.
2- Render bacon.  In a saute pan, add bacon.  Let the fat melt and cook the bacon until it is crisp.  Once, bacon is is crisp, remove from bacon and set aside on a napkin to drain.
3- In the same saute pan, sweat onions in bacon fat.  Add a dash of salt to help with the carmelization of the onions.  When it’s almost translucent, add mushrooms and cook them till they have some carmelization (some browning).  If the pan gets dry, add some oil…Mushrooms soak up moisture.  Add another dash of salt to aid with carmelization.  Add a dash of pepper too.
4- Set the onion and mushroom mixture aside to cool in a bowl.
5- In the same sauce pan, place the sausage in the pan (with the casing removed) and break apart and cook until browned.  Once browned, set aside to cool.
6- In a large bowl, prepare the custard.  Whip together the eggs and milk.
7- Add the cubed bread and the cooled mushroom, onion, and sausage mixture to the custard and allow it to soak up really well.  For at least 15 minutes…even better if soaked for 20-25 minutes… you want the bread to be completely drenched and soaked with the custard…to be one with the custard.
8- Once the custard has soaked up all the custard, pour mixture into the bread tin.  If overflowing, press into the tin.
9- Grab a nice-sized piece of foil and heavily butter the part that will be touching the top of the strata…you don’t want it to stick.  Wrap the tin lightly, as it will expand a tad.
10 – Once again, wrap the tin lightly and place in a preheated 400 degree oven.
11- When is is set, you can feel it’s bouncy, it’s pretty much done.  Remove the foil and add cheese to the top and bake without the foil until the cheese is melted.
12 – Once cheese is melted, remove from the oven and let it rest.
13- As it sits, the strata will set, about 6-10 minutes..
14 – Once set, remove from tin.  You can pull the tin away from the sides, or even cut the strata out.
15 – Slice the strata and serve with pan gravy on the side.

Note, while waiting for the custard to soak up the custard, you can make a pan gravy.  Optional.
With the browned bits in the pan, you can make a pan gravy… I don’t really have a recipe for making gravy… I just eye it.  What you can do is make a roux. Equal parts of flour and equal parts fat… if you have fat in the pan, add some flour to the pan.  If you added too much flour, add some butter.  You want to cook out the taste of the flour.  So, continue to stir it…  add either some milk or chicken stock to make it into a pan gravy.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Cook until it is at the right consistency.

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