Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Spinach, Chicken Sausage and Cheese Strata

Brunch is one of my favorite ways to entertain.   It scales easily to feed any number of people, you can make it casual or fancy, you can prepare most items in advance and... its a great excuse to drink champagne early in the day.  I recently hosted a casual baby shower brunch for a group of ladies and the menu was as follows:

Spinach, Chicken Sausage and Gruyere Strata
Mini Brie, Almond, Apricot Tarts
Fresh Fruit
Lemon Blueberry Scones
Carrot Cake

I'll share some of the other recipes in subsequent posts however the main event was the strata which turned out great.  I love this strata recipe because you can make about a 100 different variations once you have the basic idea down and it can be assembled the night before.  You simply toss it in the oven an hour before your guests arrive.  This was inspired by  a recipe I found on a favorite food blog,

Ingredients:   serves 8

3  Chicken Italian Sausage links (I used sweet versus hot)
10-20 ounces of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (I used closer to 20 I think)
3-4 cups of shredded cheese, I used a mix of Gruyere, Fontina and a bit of Parmesan
8 cups of cubed day old soft french bread
9  eggs
2 3/4 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon of dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon pf nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
black pepper

Remove the sausage from the casings and brown in a bit of olive oil over medium-high heat until golden and cooked through.  I break it up as best I can while its cooking but I find its easier to crumble it up even more once its fully cooked and cooled.

Butter/spray a 3 quart baking dish.  I like mine a bit thicker so I use a smaller/deeper dish.  Layer the bread, sausage, spinach and cheese in that order.  You'll have two layers of each and you'll end with a layer of toasty bubbly cheese on the top.

Next, whisk the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl and pour evenly over the layers into the baking dish.  You can cover and refrigerate overnight at this point.  Its best to let it set for at least one hour before baking to ensure the bread soaks up all of the custard.

When ready to bake- leave the strata at room temperature for 30 minutes and then bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes until puffy and golden brown on top.  Stick a knife in the center to ensure there is no liquid- this means its cooked all the way through.

Serve hot.  Can be reheated if need be but its best served immediately.

A few other flavor combinations:

- Andouille sausage, bell peppers and goat cheese
- Leeks, asparagus and wild mushrooms
- Bacon/lardons and gruyere
- Chorizo, roasted poblano peppers and cherry tomatoes and monterey jack
- Sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella and basil (could add pancetta as well)
Consider adding your favorite fresh herbs to kick things up as well...

You can also make mini versions of this in larger ramekins/mini souffle dishes for a different spin on the presentation or if you have a need to bake them off at different times.

1 comment:

  1. MAGGIE. Whenever we visit next I'm requesting this of Chef Lacy. I think I may need to bump up my next visit just for this!!!