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Christmas Brunch: Strata with Potatoes, Rosemary, and Fontina

Another delicious strata recipe from Cook's Illustrated magazine. Assemble it on Christmas Eve, and next morning all you have to do is pop it in the oven. It's a great idea for brunch.

As noted in the recipe for Strata with Spinach and Gruyère, the bread needs to be dried out, either at room temperature for several hours, or toasted in a 200-degree oven for about 30 minutes. The recipe can be doubled; bake in a 9-by-13-inch dish and increase cooking time by about 10 to 20 minutes.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 50 to 55 minutes (60 to 70 minutes if recipe is doubled)
Yield: 6 servings

8 to 10 slices (1/2-inch thick) day-old French or Italian bread (or toasted bread, see note above)
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
Salt and freshly ground pepper
12 oz. new potatoes (about 2 medium), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 medium shallots, minced (about 1/3 cup)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
6 oz. fontina cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 large eggs
1 3/4 cups half-and-half
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves

When bread is cool, butter the slices on 1 side with 2 Tbsp of the butter; set aside.

Bring 1 quart of water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add 1 tsp salt, and boil potatoes until just tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 4 minutes. Drain potatoes.

Heat 2 Tbsp of the butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat and cook potatoes until just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, about 2 minutes longer. Add garlic and rosemary and cook until fragrant, about 2 more minutes. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside. Return the skillet to medium-high heat, add wine, and simmer until reduced to 1/4 cup, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.

Butter an 8-inch square baking dish with remaining 1 Tbsp of butter; arrange half of the buttered bread slices, buttered-side up, in a single layer in the dish. Sprinkle half of the potato mixture, then 1/2 cup grated cheese evenly over bread slices. Arrange remaining bread slices in a single layer over the cheese, then sprinkle remaining potato mixture and another 1/2 cup cheese evenly over the bread.

Whisk eggs in a medium bowl, then whisk in reduced wine, half-and-half, parsley, 1 tsp salt, and pepper to taste. Pour egg mixture over the bread layers. Cover the surface flush with plastic wrap, and weigh down with boxes or cartons. Refrigerate overnight.

Remove dish from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Uncover the strata and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of cheese evenly over the top. Bake until both edges and center are puffed and edges have pulled slightly away from sides of dish, about 50 to 55 minutes (60 to 70 minutes if you've doubled the recipe). Cool on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes, then cut into squares and serve.

 

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©2005 Colleen Flippo. All rights reserved. Contact the author.