Using up the leftovers
I've been making a lot of bread lately. Had some extra that I either needed to throw away or make something out of. They won't let you feed it to the ducks in Portland, you know. So, I used my remarkable internet research skills to look for recipes using leftover bread. Apparently, many people just make bread crumbs and put them in the freezer. I was looking for something a little more exciting. The New York Times happened to have a recipe for panade published last week in an article about young yuppy farmers (you may have to register to see the article.) It was interesting but it uses a lot of cauliflower, not one of my favorite foods, so I kept looking. Epicurious had a strata recipe with spinach that got a ton of comments but it was one of those recipes that you have to make eight hours ahead. I rarely know what I want for dinner until I get right up to it so I hardly ever plan that far ahead unless I'm cooking for company. The strata sounded good though so I checked around for something similar and came across this recipe from Martha Rose Schulman, also in the New York Times. Her recipe just mixes all the ingredients and pops it right in the oven. It sounded perfect, so I stopped at the grocery store on my way home and picked up the cavolo nero or black leaf kale that I was sure was in the recipe. I checked the dried mushrooms she calls for, was appalled at the price and decided to substitute fresh criminis instead. Last night, ready to cook, I pulled up the recipe again. Hmmm, her recipe is for cheese strata with chard. Why was I so sure it was black kale? Ahh, the kale was in the panade. OK, another substitution. Of course I was also using my leftover whole grain bread for her french baguette and some random bits of cheese I wanted to clear out of the fridge instead of the Gruyère she listed. I guess we'll see how it comes out. An hour or so later and I was pretty pleased with myself. I had accomplished my goal of using up some of that bread and made myself a pretty tasty dinner. Here's the recipe...
Strata with Cavolo Nero and Mushrooms (seriously adapted from Martha Rose Shulman)
- 4 or 5 thick slices of whole grain bread (I used about 4 cups of my Pilgrim's Bread)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 pound of crimini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
- half bunch (about 8 ounces I think) of cavolo nero/dark leaf kale, stemmed and cleaned
- 3 garlic cloves, 1 cut in half, the other two minced
- 2 cups of milk (I used 2%)
- 3/4 cup of grated cheese, tightly packed (I used what I had in the fridge, about half goat cheddar and half kasseri)
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 350. Oil or butter a two quart baking dish or gratin pan. If the bread is soft, as mine was, toast it lightly and then rub each slice front and back with the halved garlic clove. If your bread is really stale, you can skip the toasting. Cut into 1 inch dice. Place in a large bowl and toss with 2/3 cup of the milk. Set aside.
In a large skillet, saute the mushrooms in the butter for 2 to 3 minutes, just until they smell good. Remove from skillet and set aside. Add the still wet kale to the skillet and cook over medium high heat until it starts to wilt. Cover the pan and let the kale steam until it has collapsed, about 5 minutes. Add more water if needed but just enough to steam not boil it. Uncover and stir. When all the kale has wilted, remove from the pan and rinse in cold water. Squeeze to get out the remaining moisture and then chop and set aside. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the skillet and quickly saute the minced garlic over medium heat. Stir in the mushrooms, rosemary and kale. Stir together and season with salt and pepper. Remember that the cheese and bread both have salt in them so adjust your seasonings with that in mind (my dish turned out slightly too salty because of this, I think). Remove from the heat and add the kale mixture to the bread cubes. Add the grated cheeses (not the Parmesan, that comes later), toss to mix and then arrange in the prepared baking dish.
Beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Add the remaining milk, the 1/2 teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Pour over the bread mixture. Press the bread down into the eggs. Sprinkle the Parmesan on the top and drizzle the other tablespoon of oil on top of that. (The oil thing is in Martha's recipe. I have to admit that I couldn't tell there was oil there and will probably not waste the effort next time I make the dish.) Place in the oven and bake 40 to 50 minutes until puffed and browned. Serves 4 to 6.
Martha says you can do all the hard work ahead, up to the egg step, and it will keep, covered, in your fridge up to a couple of days. Add the egg and milk when you're ready to bake. Next time I make this I will probably halve the recipe and bake it in a small dish. It's way too much for one person to dispose of. I'll likely let the bread sit out to get a little more stale before toasting. And as I said, I will cut the salt a little bit. The crimini were fabulous, great flavor. It was, however, the rosemary that really made it.