Last weekend before I had decided to make those hot cross buns, I was searching online for spring brunch dishes to see if anything would inspire some new brunch escapades. I kept coming across the usual suspects but nothing seemed to peak my interest; quiche? Nadda. Bacon? Done that. Scramble? Meh. Then I stumbled across something I’d never heard of before, a strata, hmmmm, what is this bad ass sounding dish I wondered. As it turns out it’s one of those custardy baked dishes that’s filled with bread, eggs and whatever crap you come across in your kitchen that you feel like throwing in. Kind of like a savory bread pudding (something else I’ve never made).
A lot of blogs don’t normally tell you about their kitchen tragedies, really I would guess that that’s because there ain’t a lot of people out there who want to read a blog about someone constantly messing up….that’s what reality tv is for But being as I’m the type of person who likes to talk (i.e. bitch and complain) about things that no one else wants to hear about, I can tell you that strata was not the originally planned brunch option for this weekend. Nope, I had this brilliant plan of making something super easy and adding my own personal flare….as it turns out my flare consists of taking something simple and ruining it.
I had some leftover bananas that needed to be used up, so I went “banana scramble for the win!”, but there’s a million banana scrambles out there in internet land, so I figured I should at least do something slightly different to lure you guys in, and so the banana scramble Panini was created…well…sort of. As it turns out, when you take something warm and mushy, put it between two pieces of bread and squeeze, you end up with two pieces of bread surrounded by something warm and mushy. After scrapping bits of burnt banana off the Panini press and smearing it onto the bread, it still tasted pretty great! But for the time being, let’s consider the banana scramble Panini a work in progress.
The strata I made ended up being more of a lunch item then a brunch one, but since our beautiful spring turned into a crapfest of snow this weekend, I was plenty happy staying inside to spend the whole day cooking, baking and watching movies. Since this thing basically consists of nothing but eggs and cheese, I went the easy route and used tofu and vegan cheese. I was happy to discover that there’s a strata recipe in Veganomicon (did anyone know that was there?), so I loosely based my recipe on that one. I had some vegan ham that I’ve been trying to use up for the past few months but I know y’all don’t have vegan ham kicking around your freezer, so it can easily be replaced with any kind of sausage, or just leave it out.
I’ll be bringing this one to future brunch gatherings, not only does it taste super awesome, but it also makes enough to feed every member of Arcade Fire! Which is great because I love me some leftovers. Philip is also on board with the strata love, proclaiming that it’s “delicious” and “his kind of meal” while downing two plates You gotta love that kind of response.
ASPARAGUS, MUSHROOM & HAM STRATA
Makes 8 to 10 Servings
- 6 slices stale or lightly toasted French bread, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lb asparagus, ends snapped off, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 6 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly
- 8 ounces vegan ham, cut into really small cubes
- 4 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 8 ounces vegan cheddar cheese, shredded
FOR THE CUSTARD:
- 2 pkgs (14 ounces) extra firm silken tofu, drained
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon black salt
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth or non-dairy milk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (if using milk or sodium-free broth)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9 x 13 baking pan with oil or a non-stick spray.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add one tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion and cook until softened, than add the asparagus, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the spears start to brown and soften, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, ham and scallion whites and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms soften and cook through, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and herbs. Sauté for another minute,
Turn off the heat, move the vegetables to the side, and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Toss in the bread pieces and mix to distribute.
Meanwhile, make the custard: place all the custard ingredients in a blender or food processor,. Puree until completely smooth and than fold in the cheese and remaining green onion. Set aside until ready to use.
To assemble the strata, transfer the bread and vegetable mixture into the baking dish. Pour the tofu custard over everything, and use a spatula to press the custard into the vegetables. You want to get as much custard as you can into the vegetable mixture without actually stirring things up.
Bake for 50 to 55 minutes. Remove, allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then slice and serve.
Adapted from Veganomicon