This is the ultimate make ahead brunch dish. We recently made it for family and friends that came over on a Sunday morning. Because we were going to be out on Saturday afternoon and evening and would be busy with last minute preparations in the morning, I needed something that I could make in advance. But I still wanted something hot and, ideally, cheesy and eggy too. Golden and puffy would be a bonus. So I thought of strata.
I'm guessing that stratas were invented to use up all those leftover bits of stale bread, along with whatever ingredients were on hand for flavoring. The milk and egg custard that get poured on were likely added to soften the bread and meld the flavors. And of course, there has to be cheese. But the dish is even better with fresh ingredients. This recipe combines Gruyere and greens, a fantastic flavor combination.
To be honest, I have no idea whether the children ate the strata. I was too busy socializing. But you could vary it to use whatever ingredients your family enjoys.
My friend Beth asked for this recipe so that she could make it on Christmas morning. I think that is an excellent plan, especially because the strata could be breakfast or lunch. So I will whip one up on Christmas Eve and have it ready to go whenever the children's excitement ebbs and they realize that they're hungry.
Kale and Gruyere Strata
40 minutes preparation time, plus 8 hours for refrigerating
45-55 minutes baking time
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups fresh chopped kale
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 cups whole milk
9 large eggs
Most of 1 standard-sized baguette, cubed (about 9 cups), divided
Approximately 6 ounces Gruyere, shredded (about 2 cups), divided
1 cup grated parmesan, divided
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the chopped kale and cook until the kale wilts completely, about 5 minutes. I love my kale a bit browned. If you do too, let the kale go longer until it has browned in parts. Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and the nutmeg.
In a large bowl, mix together the milk and eggs. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.
Oil a 9-by-13 inch baking pan. Spread one third of the bread cubes into the pan. Add one third of the kale and one third of each of the cheeses. Repeat with two more layers until you have used all the ingredients, ending with the cheeses.
Pour the milk mixture over the pan evenly. Wrap the pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 and up to 24 hours.
When you are ready to bake the strata, remove it from the oven and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking it. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the strata until it is puffy, golden brown, and irresistible looking, 45 to 55 minutes.
Get it while it's hot.