A goat cheese strata may sound like the kind of recipe published in women's magazines from the 1980s, right next to the article telling you how to rectify your home perm gone wrong. Both of which you'd probably rather forget.
But a well-made strata is worth remembering: rich and gooey with cheese in the middle, browned and crunchy at the edges, and suffused with savory custard. And, just as your mother may have done back in the day, a strata can be entirely assembled the day before and popped into the oven just before guests start arriving for brunch.
This version updates the usual strata recipe in two major ways. The first is the custard, which I've flecked with puréed braising greens (baby kale, chard, mustard or what have you) and fresh herbs. Not only does this add color, it also gives the dish a slightly more complex and sophisticated flavor.
Then, because I think any egg-based dish is even better when some of the yolks run free, I've added some soft-centered baked eggs on the top. Take care not to overcook them; you want the yolk to burst over the strata like a sauce. If you're less charmed by runny egg yolk, you can skip the added eggs entirely, which will give you a slightly better crunch.
For the bread, you can use what you have. I've tested this with brioche and plain white bread, and both work nicely. Or you could try a soft whole-wheat loaf. But if you're using anything very crusty, you may want to trim off any charred bits, which can interfere with the other flavors. Also make sure to soak crusty bread until the crusts thoroughly soften (at least overnight), or the texture won't be as gentle and pleasing.
If you're not a fan of goat cheese, you can substitute dollops of fresh ricotta. This will give you a milder dish that you can either spike heavily with chile powder on top, or enjoy as is.
Serve this strata with fresh asparagus if you have some, or a juicy citrus salad drizzled with olive oil. You'll want something bright and fresh tasting to cut the richness of the egg and cheese. Of course, a mimosa will work nicely, too.
Green Strata With Goat Cheese and Herbs
Time: 1 hour, plus at least 4 hours' chilling
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
5 ounces baby braising greens, such as kale, mustard greens, chard or a mix (about 5 cups)
3/4 cup mixed soft herbs, such as parsley, cilantro, dill, mint or chives
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more as needed
Black pepper, as needed
12 large eggs
1 pound day-old brioche or white bread, cut into 2-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
6 ounces cold goat cheese, sliced into
Aleppo or Turkish pepper, for serving (optional)
1. In a medium pot, bring milk and cream to a simmer.
2. Meanwhile, place greens, herbs, cheese, salt and pepper in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Once the hot milk mixture comes to a simmer, pour over greens and purée until smooth. Pour into a bowl and let cool completely. Once cool, whisk in six eggs.
3. Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Scatter bread cubes over bottom of pan. Pour custard over bread and press down so the bread absorbs the custard. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least four hours. If you can, stir bread cubes after an hour or so to encourage an even distribution of custard.
4. When you are ready to bake the strata, heat oven to 350 degrees. Tuck the goat cheese rounds into and on top of the strata. Transfer pan to oven and bake until top is beginning to firm up but is still slightly wet underneath, about 25 minutes.
5. Remove pan from oven and use a spoon to make six evenly spaced indentations on the surface of the strata. Crack an egg into each hole and season with salt and pepper. Return pan to oven and continue to bake until strata is cooked through and eggs are just set, 20 to 25 minutes more. Sprinkle with Aleppo or Turkish pepper if desired.
And to Drink ...
This rich, custardy dish needs an incisive wine to cut through its eggy, creamy amplitude. Sauvignon blanc, the historical regional partner for goat cheese in all its forms, comes immediately to mind. I don't believe that regional pairings are automatically good, but this one is tried and true over generations. Racy, refreshing, herbal Loire sauvignon blancs will work beautifully, from Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé or their less-expensive satellite regions, like Quincy, Menetou-Salon and Reuilly. And sauvignon blanc is truly an international grape, grown on every continent that makes wine.
It can be excellent from northeastern Italy, and New Zealand made its reputation with pungent, zesty versions. California's sauvignon blancs can be very good, though often a little richer, and don't write off bottles from South Africa and South America.
© 2015 New York Times News Service