SPINACH-CHEESE STRATA: Perfect Any Time Of Day!

spinach cheese strata textOne thing I love about egg dishes is they can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – kind of a one-size-fits-all meal of the food world. (Even though one size does NOT fit all in the clothing world!)

This SPINACH-CHEESE STRATA is very fast to prepare…even faster if you take a couple of shortcuts: 1) buy frozen spinach and, 2) buy bread (rather than making it). I’m a little paranoid about the cleanliness of frozen spinach, since I know how dirty fresh can be, so I buy fresh. Also, I like to bake my own bread and often have extra in the freezer. But that’s just me.

Bonus: it’s a make ahead dish – always a plus for me. That way, I can prepare it in the morning (or even the night before), leaving explicit instructions with my husband. Explicit!

SPINACH-CHEESE STRATA – makes about 6 servings

  • about 11  1/2″ slices of day old French bread (or less if it’s a fat loaf)
  • 2 T butter + more for spreading on bread
  • 2 bunches fresh spinach (or 12 oz frozen cut spinach)
  • 1/4 cup shallots, minced
  • 1/2 tsp + 1/8 tsp black pepper, divided
  • 1 tsp + 1/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1½ cups (3½ oz) Gruyère cheese, shredded
  • 6 eggs
  • 1¾ cup half & half

The bread should be stale. If you plan ahead you can leave slices on a wire rack overnight. If you didn’t have time to do that, simply bake in the oven at 225º Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes, flipping halfway through. (Don’t toast them – it’s not the same thing!)

Butter one side of all the stale bread slices.strata14If you’re using fresh spinach, thoroughly wash, dry, and coarsely chop. If you’re using frozen, thaw.

Melt the 2 T butter in a Dutch oven (if using frozen spinach, then use a skillet). Add shallots and sauté 3 minutes to soften. strata13Add in spinach, 1/2 tsp black pepper, and 1 tsp salt. strata15Cook over medium heat, stirring until spinach is wilted – about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.strata16In the now empty pan, pour in the white wine. Cook over medium/high to reduce it to 1/4 cup. This happens fairly quickly so keep an eye on it. Remove from heat.

Butter an 8″ x 8″ pan (I use Pyrex). Cover bottom with buttered bread (butter side up).strata9 Spread on half of the spinach. strata10Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the cheese. strata11Add another layer of bread, the remaining spinach, and 1/2 cup cheese.strata6 In a bowl or large measuring cup for easy pouring, whisk the eggs, half & half, reduced wine, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp black pepper. Pour on top of spinach/bread/cheese. strata7Cover with plastic wrap, pressing directly onto food. Weigh it down with whatever will fit. (I use another 8″ x 8″ pan weighted with bowls). strata17Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

To bake, remove plastic wrap. Sprinkle on remaining 1/2 cup cheese. strata2Bake at 325º F for 50-55 minutes, until starting to brown (I bake for 50 minutes). Remove from oven and let set about 15 minutes before serving.strata3

 

 

 

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Egg Foo Yummm!

Egg Foo Yong

Egg Foo Yong

It isn’t always easy being a vegetarian. Before I changed my carnivorous ways, I had my go-to picks when I went for Chinese food:  won-ton soup, sweet and sour pork, egg rolls, and chicken chow mein.  When I became a vegetarian I found myself carefully examining the menus for meatless choices.  Back in those days I was pretty much limited to stir fried vegetables and rice. This was long before the days when Chinese restaurants started adding tofu – or even removing the meat – from selections on their menus.

I finally spied ‘Egg Foo Yong’ (sometimes spelled ‘yung’ or ‘young’) on the menu and gave it a try.  Mmmmm!  Fortunately, my first sample of egg foo yong was delicious. Since then, I’ve discovered it really depends on the restaurant and the chef.

Egg Foo Yong seemed like a dish I could make at home – I’m always looking for vegetarian recipes AND ways to save money.  Not only can eating out be costly, but I tend to worry if the food preparers are using sanitary precautions.  I admit it – I’m a smidge frugal (okay – I’m cheap) and paranoid.

For those of you who have never heard of Egg Foo Yong, it’s basically an egg pancake with bits of things like mushroom and bean sprouts mixed in, served over sticky rice, and topped with a brown sauce.  I’ll give you the recipe the way I make it, but there’s a lot of room for personalizing. Because these egg patties cook quickly and are best served immediately, I make the brown sauce first, then the sticky rice (and while it’s cooking I get the side dishes going), then I begin the egg pancakes.

The more you can fit on your skillet or griddle the better so the first ones don’t have to sit around too long.  But – word to the wise – don’t crowd them. You’re going to have to flip these babies and, unless you’re a whiz with a spatula, they rarely land where they started. You want to avoid flipping them onto another one.

NOTE:  I use a 13″ All Clad skillet to cook the egg patties and have found that making 3 at a time is the best number.  Perhaps in future, I’ll use my griddle, as well.  That way, I can squeeze in a few more per cooking batch.

BROWN SAUCE – makes 2/3 cup

  • 1½ tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 2½ T soy sauce
  • ½ cup water

In a small saucepan put the cornstarch, sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce.  Stir and mash until you have smooth paste – no lumps. Add in the water and heat over a medium flame until the color changes from coffee-with-cream color to black coffee color, stirring often. At this point the sauce will thicken a bit.  The color and thickness change will occur just before the boiling point.  Once the sauce begins to boil, turn off the heat.

EGG FOO YONG –  makes 8 patties 4″ in diameter

  • 5 eggs
  • ½ T soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 mushrooms, chopped
  • 4 oz bean sprouts (1 cup)
  • ½ T sesame oil
  • canola oil for frying

NOTE:  You don’t have to restrict yourself to onions, mushrooms, and bean sprouts (or even use them at all).  You might try carrots, peas, scallions – whatever you fancy!

In a large skillet heat the sesame oil a bit, then sautè the onions and mushrooms for a few minutes.  Pour the cooked onions and mushrooms into a bowl and set aside to cool. You’re going to be adding these to the beaten eggs – if they’re hot, they’ll start cooking the eggs.

In a medium bowl beat the eggs and soy sauce.  Stir in the bean sprouts and cooled onions and mushrooms.

In the large skillet you used earlier pour in enough canola oil to cover the bottom.  Ladle on the egg mixture like you were making pancakes.  You don’t want to use too much per patty – maybe 1/3 cup.  They spread rapidly and then kind of keep spreading. Try not to have them touch – you don’t want to have to cut them if you can avoid it.  Flip them when they’re well browned on bottom.  Once they’re well browned on both sides transfer to a platter.  Add more canola oil as necessary as you cook the remainder.

Serve them hot over sticky rice, generously pouring the brown sauce on top.