I think it's important to greet a new year with a delicious breakfast. In the past few years, strata has become my favorite special breakfast/brunch dish, and it has now become a New Year's morning tradition for me. If you're not familiar with strata, it is a layered casserole of bread, cheese, eggs, and vegetables or meat. I like to think of it as a savory bread pudding. Strata is an excellent dish for entertaining, because it can easily feed a crowd and you do all the prep the night before. In the morning, you just pop it in the oven and wait for the magic to happen. This year, I was making strata for just Sean and me, so I made a smaller recipe, but we still have leftovers, which are great for lunch or dinner along with a green salad. Strata recipes are generally very flexible, and you can add whatever combinations of cheeses, vegetables, or meat you have on hand. This time I decided to serve bacon on the side, but you can add cooked, crumbled bacon to your veggie mixture. You can also use whatever type of bread you have lying around, and I've successfully used whole wheat/multigrain loaves as well as a baguette-style gluten-free bread.
Spinach and Mushroom Strata
Adapted from Gourmet
6 oz. frozen spinach, thawed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 cups cubed (1 inch) crusty bread (day old works best)
3 oz. gruyere, grated
1 oz. parmesan, grated
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the thawed spinach and set aside. Use 1/2 tablespoon of the butter to grease a 2-quart casserole or gratin dish. (A square glass or metal baking dish will also work.)
Sautee the onion in the remaining butter over moderate heat until it is starting to get soft, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until the mushrooms are soft and have released their liquid. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, then add spinach and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat.
In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the vegetable mixture and the shredded cheese. (For a true strata, you would alternate layers of bread, vegetables, and cheese, but I am lazy and think the finished product doesn't suffer from being all mixed up.) I like to reserve a bit of the cheese for sprinkling on top of the strata. Transfer the bread mixture to the casserole dish and top with the reserved cheese.
Whisk together the milk, eggs, and mustard in a medium bowl and season as desired with salt and pepper. Pour this mixture evenly over the strata. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.
In the morning, preheat oven to 350. Allow the strata to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to baking. Bake the strata until golden brown and cooked through, about 45-60 minutes. Your cooking time will depend on the depth of your baking dish - the one I use is quite deep, and my strata always pushes the upper limit of the baking time. You want the liquid to be absorbed and the center of the strata to be "set," but still moist. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.