Rustic Strata with Corn, Leek, Mushroom, and Gruyère

The French call french toast pain perdu which translates literally to “bread lost.”  This versatile, bubblin’-and-steamin’-from-the-oven creation is of the same ilk, in that it turns stale bread into a weekend brunch masterpiece.  Corn, leeks, and ‘shrooms are three of my favorite local spring veggies, naturally sweet and nutty with divine textures.  The Gruyère lends a hint of quiche Lorraine which, for those of us past the laughable “real men don’t eat quiche” phase, we can all agree is the gold standard of comfort-food egg dishes.

Strata mucho

Strata Mucho

Most times I make strata, however, I Iron Chef ™ it out of ingredients on hand.  The bread-egg-milk-cheese “master recipe” ratios can be combined with all manner of extras (your leftover veggie kabobs from last night, par example). Should you find yourself winging it like Debra Winger (I love you, Deb!) substitute whatever sautéing veggies you have available, along with whatever cheeses you have, except for of course (mon Dieu!) American.

  • 6 farm eggs
  • 2 cups milk (your choice, I use 1%.  Whole will taste richer, dahling.)
  • 1 TBS grain mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper (plus more to taste)
  • 3-4 oz. each Parmesan Reggiano and Gruyère cheeses, shredded
  • 5-6 thick slices artisan bread (or 8 slices sandwich bread) cubed*
  • 2 TBS olive oil (plus more)
  • 2 leeks, trimmed; chopped, rinsed, and drained
  • 2 ears of fresh corn, de-kerneled
  • 4-5 oz sliced mushrooms (morel or chanterelle are divine, but crimini are great too)
  • 1 TBS reserved bacon fat (I keep some in the fridge at all times) or 1 TBS butter
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • fresh parsley, rinsed and chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.  Use some olive oil to grease the inside of a 9×13 (or thereabouts) baking dish.  Heat 1 TBS bacon fat or butter in a sauté pan on med high.  Add leeks, corn, and ‘shrooms.  Sauté until leeks are wilted, adding 1 TBS olive oil along the way.  Add 2 tsp balsamic vinegar plus salt and pepper to taste and continue sautéing until golden brown.  Remove from heat and let cool. In a large bowl, whisk together first 4 ingredients (eggs through pepper) and set aside.  Toss bread cubes in the baking dish with an extra drizzle of olive oil, then spread them out in a layer.  Arrange cooled veggies on top of bread.  (Pro tip:  let a couple oiled bread corners stick up to create crispy brown peaks in the final product.)  Pour egg mixture evenly over bread and veggies (watch for those peaks, perfectionists!).  Sprinkle cheese mixture on top.

That's my bacon fat in the background there.  Next time you make bacon, pour the fat into a container and refrigerate it, mmmkay?

That’s bacon fat in the background.  Save yours the next time you make bacon, mmmkay?

So the cheese will not stick during baking, oil the underside of a piece of tinfoil (rub extra oil into hands, elbows and cuticles) then cover dish tightly.  Bake for 50 minutes or until center is bubbly.  Remove foil and bake another 5-10 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Serve in squares with chopped parsley and a simple green or fruit salad.  Voilà!  Bread found.

*breadnotes:  If bread is soft, strata can be made day-of.  For a decadent, more custard-y treat, try Challah bread.  For stale bread, assemble the night before and store covered in the fridge.  For baseball-bat stale bread, break into chunks and steam covered in a basket with an inch of water for a couple minutes as you would broccoli.

Fried Rice FTW

(FTW? WTF! In case you need to brush up on your internet slang, you can do so here. You’ll notice there are two possible definitions. How your rice turns out determines which of those FTW definitions to employ for your recipe files.)

Psst - real pans get dirty on the sides when you cook with them.

Psst – real pans get food on the sides when you cook with them.

Oh Fried Rice, how I would have revelled in knowing your secret as an undergrad. You’re more of a magic trick than a recipe. All those times stumbling home drunk to find an empty fridge, save for a couple eggs and a lone take-out pagoda of petrified rice which, in my ignorance, I didn’t give another glance. I just let the light fall dark on them. Then I probably threw them away a week later. I shudder to think of that now. There are few things I find harder to stomach than wasted food. [This passion may stem from my grandmother, a child of the Depression, affectionately known as “Gogs” to her grandchildren, who once purchased a personal-sized cooler at a church thrift store in FL (“Noah’s Ark”) in order to drive home to D.C. with the leftover cheese remnants from our extended family vacation. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.]

There is nothing exact or measured about this recipe (apologies to my OCD friends). If you’ve had it before, you can judge the proper ratios for yourself. With it’s cornucopia of flavor, color, and texture possibilities, fried rice deserves to be eyeballed rather than measured. Basic fried rice begins with 5 ingredients:

  • cooked rice (white or brown)
  • eggs (in general, use roughly one per cup cooked rice, more if meatless)
  • peanut oil (or other high-temp oil will do)
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce

Fried rice variations are endless and should be tailored to your new anti-food-waste needs. The last batch I made (pictured above) featured in addition to the big 5, a languishing half head of cauliflower, onion, carrot, celery, frozen peas, mushrooms, leftover chicken salvaged from an unfortunately flavored Tom Yum soup delivery, green onion, sesame seeds and fresh parsley. Though my children would have sneered at several of those ingredients alone, as a family we crushed that batch of fried rice, and avoided paying for an additional meal for five in the process (now you see why it’s more like magic?).

optional ingredients:

  • diced mirapoix (onion, carrot, celery)
  • diced bbq pork, or cooked meat of your choice
  • frozen peas
  • sesame seeds
  • fresh cilantro or parsley
  • ground coriander

If you are using onion, carrot, celery or other fresh veggies, dice them while heating some peanut oil (enough to coat the bottom) to med-high (shimmery but not smoking) in a large enameled or non-stick deep sauté pan (or wok if you have one). Add a couple drops of sesame oil, then sauté and season your veggies. Softer vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, and zucchini, if used should be added/seasoned a few minutes later, and cooked with the lid on.  Once veggies have reached desired doneness, push them to one side of the pan. Add a few more drops of both oils to the pan and once heated, crack the eggs directly into the clearing. Season them with salt, pepper, and coriander. Break them up to cook.

Stir cooked eggs into veggie mixture. If pan has lost it’s oil coating, add a bit more. Dump rice into pan, drizzle conservatively with soy sauce (you can always add more later). If rice is cold from the fridge, cook covered for a few minutes to soften, adding a few drops of water to rehydrate grains if necessary. Add meat and frozen peas, stirring to combine. Fry mixture until peas are done.  

Before serving, taste the rice and adjust the seasonings. Garnish with fresh herbs and sesame seeds. FTW!          

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

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farm eggs in the house

This recipe is very easy, I love that it works equally well for breakfast as it does dessert.  Some variation is normal, not all bananas are the same size or ripeness.  If yours are small, maybe throw in an extra.  Super-sized?  Use one less.  Preheat the oven to 250.  Use some coconut oil to grease the inside of a bread loaf pan, rub any extra into your cuticles and elbows.  Sprinkle the inside of the greased pan with flour, set aside.

Ingredients:

  • 5 ripe (brown to black) bananas
  • 1/2 C natural sugar
  • 1/2 C melted coconut oil
  • 2 farm eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 C flour sifted with 1.5 tsp salt and 1 tsp each baking powder and soda
  • 1 C dark chocolate chips
to infinity and beyond

to infinity and beyond

 

With a hand or stand mixer, mix the bananas and sugar together until homogeneously creamy, this could take a few minutes.  Add the eggs, vanilla and melted oil; blending well.  Slowly add the flour mix, and lastly the chips.  Pour mixture into prepared pan.  Place in center of oven and bake 1.5-1.75 hrs or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Place pan on it’s side on a cooling rack, after 15-20 minutes, turn pan upside down and remove loaf.  Place loaf right-side-up directly on cooling rack.  Loaf will keep for several days at room temp when tightly covered (only once completely cooled).