If there’s one recipe you need this holiday season, this is it. While this is the perfect breakfast to make for a crowd any time of the year, it’s my go-to for Christmas morning because it is prepared the day before.
So when the morning hoopla is in full swing, and a swirling storm of wrapping paper is encircling my children, and half-opened presents are being strewn about, and I am consciously taking-in all of the magical moments while simultaneously gathering-up bits of ribbon and piles of torn shiny paper from the floor, an incredibly delicious aroma will emerge, wafting in from the kitchen to blanket the scene.
In the midst of the chaos and glory that is Christmas morning, my Spinach and Gruyere Strata is toasting-up all golden and satisfying, and all I had to do was preheat the oven (and grab a strong cup of coffee). Ah, it feels good just thinking about it!
Strata, a.k.a. Christmas Morning Strata, a.k.a. I-don’t-have-to-make-breakfast-today-strata (when you call it by this name, you have to dance. Adding a hearty “woohoo!” is purely optional) simply means “layers.” In American cuisine, that relates to a type of casserole consisting of layered bread, milk and cheese. It’s also a gorgeous dish to consider for brunch as it is similar in concept to a quiche or frittata.
If you have access to a local farm or a Farmer’s Market, or if your supermarket has a local produce section, please support them by using local milk, cheese and eggs and whatever green is in season like spinach, kale or broccoli.
I use ciabatta bread in my strata simply because it’s my favorite, but any type of thick bread will do. Considering there’s 10 eggs in this recipe, it’s really not an egg-y tasting dish at all because the mixture of eggs, cream and white wine will be absorbed overnight by the bread. When the strata bakes, the bread swells and puffs-up all golden delicious with threads of Gruyère cheese and spinach tucked in and under each slice.
This is a savory and filling meal and it tastes just as good at room temperature, so it’s something we can continue to pick on throughout the busy morning. For my picky eater, I put aside a nice thick piece of ciabatta to toast up on the brustolina (if you don’t have one, get one, you don’t know what you are missing!) topped with a slab of butter and jam, and all is well in his world. That is, if my children agree to eat before the afternoon. It is Christmas morning after all.
So this Christmas, when you are yawning and stretching at the crack of dawn, or someone under the age of 6 is lifting your eyelids to ask you if Santa came, pour yourself a hot cup of coffee (or two) and preheat the oven. Then do your I-don’t-have-to-make-breakfast-today-strata dance and sit back and enjoy the beautiful chaos of the morning with your family because breakfast… is… done.
Gruyere & Spinach Strata
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion (or 2 small onions), sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
12 ounces fresh chopped spinach (or 10 ounces of frozen chopped spinach, thawed)
1 pound loaf of day-old ciabatta bread, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 pound Gruyere cheese, grated
2 cups half and half
1/2 cup Sauvingnon Blanc
Salt & pepper
- In a large saute pan over a medium flame, heat butter and only 2 tablespoons olive oil;
- Add onions and sprinkle lightly with salt, saute until soft and tender, 15 minutes;
- Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds; transfer onion mixture to separate bowl and set aside;
- Add remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and spinach, cook until wilted and tender, 3 minutes. Transfer to colander and squeeze out excess moisture, add spinach to onion mixture and stir well to incorporate;
- Butter a 3-quart baking dish and begin to layer: Start with half of the bread cubes. Next use half of the Gruyere to spread evenly on top of the bread, then layer the remaining bread, add spinach mixture on top of bread and spread evenly, last layer should be the remaining Gruyere;
- In a large bowl beat eggs and wine and half and half, season lightly with salt and pepper and stir to incorporate, carefully pour over bread mixture, a little at a time, use a spoon to gently lift bread to incorporate egg mixture underneath, then press bread down to help absorb egg mixture, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6-12 hours;
- Preheat oven to 350;
- Remove plastic wrap and cover with foil, bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 40 minutes longer or until strata is cooked through and top is golden brown.
This is perfect for brunch, a light lunch, or a fuss-free breakfast. It’s savory and filling. Have fun switching up the ingredients too by adding sausage or different vegetables. Enjoy!!