Something Different for Sunday Brunch
Strata is an egg-based casserole layered with vegetables, meat, and cheese between an eggy custard-like bread. It is a savory variation of bread pudding and a perfect addition to Sunday brunch.
A Note on Mushrooms
I like to use a selection of maitake (Hen of the Woods), white bunashimeji (White Beech), and baby oyster mushrooms for the wild mushrooms; however, you may want to use whatever is in season at your local grocery store. I’ve seen chanterelles, porcini, baby morels, and lobster mushrooms at my local Kroger, Whole Foods, and Costco. Just ask the manager if you have a specific request (squeaky wheel!). There are also fine dried wild mushroom mixes out there which can help save money. Just reconstitute them by soaking them in very hot water for 10-15 minutes. You can also find wild mushrooms available online by checking the Shop Ingredients section on this website.
For wine pairings, try wines with some bottle age. Aromas with earthy and mushroom notes will work well with the spicy character of truffles. Try Bordeaux, 2016 France. Avoid light and fruity wines.
Wild Mushroom, Asparagus, Ham and Italian White Truffle Strata
- chef knife
- cutting board
- measuring cups and spoons
- large mixing bowl
- stand mixer or hand whisk
- 9x12 casserole dish
- 3 tbsp white truffle butter separated in half
- 1 lb asparagus cut into one-inch pieces
- 2 cups ham, cubed about 3/4 lbs of ham
- 8 oz mushrooms, any wild variety will do or substitute crimini (Oyster, Hen of the Woods, White Beech)
- 1 tsp white pepper, ground
- 1 cup white onion, medium, minced
- 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
- 9 whole eggs, beaten
- 9 slices Texas Toast or thick 1" slice white bread
- 1 cup white cheddar, shredded
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1 1/2 cups milk or half and half
- To taste sea salt
- To taste black pepper, coarse grind
- Preheat an oven to (350°F or 175°C).
- Prepare a 9x10 casserole dish by buttering well, with½2 half of the Italian white truffle butter.
- Remove the woody bottom of the asparagus and cut the spears into 1" pieces.
- Cut the ham into ½" slices and cube the slices of ham.
- Clean and cut the wild mushrooms into large bite-size pieces. (Mushrooms will shrink when cooked.)
- Peel and mince the white onions.
- Remove the thyme leaves and discard the stems, chop the leaves, and reserve to prepare the fresh herbs. Next, remove the tarragon leaves and discard the stems, and chop the leaves. Reserve
- Using a cheese grater, shred a block of white or aged cheddar (or purchase the grated white cheddar) and reserve. Use the same method for the ¼ cup of parmesan cheese and reserve.
- Heat a large skillet or sauté pan on medium-high heat with the other half of Italian white truffle butter. When the butter has melted, add the minced white onion. Stir often and cook until the onion is translucent. Next, add the wild mushrooms with a pinch of salt and white pepper. Cook the onion mushroom mixture until almost all of the water in the mushrooms is gone.
- While the vegetable mixture is cooking, add nine whole eggs to a stand or hand mixer and whisk the eggs until they are smooth and the beater comes out cleanly without long strands of egg white. (You can beat the eggs by hand if you wish). Next, add the 1½ cups of half-and-half and whisk to incorporate. Finally, add all of the white cheddar and reserve.
- Once the onion and mushroom mixture has cooked, add the cut asparagus and thyme. Cook the asparagus until just done (about 3 minutes), remove the heat, and add the chopped tarragon. Stir the vegetables to mix in the tarragon. Allow to mixture to cool.
- Cut the Texas Toast or 1" slice of white bread into cubes and place it in a large mixing bowl. Pour the egg/milk/cheese mixture over the bread cubes. Using your hands, mix the bread gently with the egg mixture without breaking up the bread cubes. Allow the egg mixture to soak into the bread cubes for 5 minutes.
- To prepare for baking: Add half of the bread mixture to the bottom of the prepared baking dish. On this, add half of the vegetable mixture. Repeat with another layer of the bread mixture followed by the other half of the vegetable mixture. Cover the whole dish with aluminum foil and place it on the center rack of the preheated (350°F or 175°C).
- Bake the strata for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the aluminum foil. Sprinkle the top of the strata with the parmesan cheese, replace the aluminum foil and return to the oven for 30 minutes more.
- The strata is finished when the center is set but a little creamy. Allow the strata to rest for 10 minutes and serve.