Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Strata to the Rescue

I've taken up the habit of buying two or three loaves of bread at a time and freezing them. When I need a slice or two, I take them out of the freezer and give them a spell in the toaster. This has saved me lots of money, I think. Before I started freezing bread, I could never eat through a whole loaf before it started to go bad. Now I don't waste any bread. It isn't a bad trade-off for a little freezer burn now and then.

Until a couple days ago, I never had any trouble with frozen bread that a little added flavoring (such as white salad dressing, PBJ, etc.) couldn't cover up. On Saturday, however, I opened a new loaf that had been in my freezer for a couple weeks. I made a sandwich with the first two slices off the end of the loaf. It wasn't very good. The heel was very tough and stiff. I reckoned the bread would get softer toward the middle of the loaf, but on Sunday I tried another sandwich with even worse results.

It was so bad, in fact, that I decided to get rid of the whole loaf at one shot. At the same time, it seemed a pity to waste it. So I decided to make strata. Without a recipe. Bachelor gourmet all the way!

I already had a package of bacon thawing in the refrigerator. I had taken it out of the freezer without any clear idea of what I meant to do with it. A quick shopping trip supplied me with a dozen eggs and some cheese. Now I was ready to cook.

I put some minced onions in a tumbler of water to soak. I browned the bacon. I sliced the cheese. I beat all the eggs together in one bowl. I lined a 9"x13" pan with six slices of bread. I didn't bother cutting the crusts off, because I don't mind them presonally. After arranging pieces of crumbled bacon over the first layer of bread, I added a second layer on top. Here I put the rest of the bacon and the cheese.

If I had sliced the cheese thinner, I might have added it to both layers; with better foresight I might also have included some veggies. Big deal. It was going to be strata anyway.

After topping the pan off with a third layer of bread, I smashed it all down with the heel of my hand. Then I poured a mixture of beaten egg and soaked onion over it, using a fork to spread the fluid around and to guide it into the cracks between and around the pieces of bread. I covered the pan and left it in the refrigerator overnight, so that the bread would have plenty of time to soak up the egg.

On Monday morning, the covered dish went into an oven preheated to 350 F. Or, as I like to put it as I chatter to myself in the kitchen, "Three hundred fifty effing degrees." I had no idea how long it needed to bake. So I set a timer for 30 minutes and checked it when the bell rang. The strata still looked uncooked at 30 minutes, and I thought it seemed a bit moist at 60, so I left it in for a few more minutes - not quite another 30. Then I let it cool for a bit on the countertop before I sliced off a serving-sized hunk.

The results: a thick, rich, bacon-sandwichy bread pudding with the distinct tang of reconstituted onions. Interestingly, it goes beautifully with sauerkraut. I tried topping this morning's serving of leftover strata with that noble vegetable, with the aim of correcting its lack of vitamin-bearing ingredients. The combination of flavors worked well.

Nevertheless, now that I have seen the pictures in this post, I'll have to plan on adding some veggies at an earlier stage in my next fit of strata-making. Maybe mushrooms, spinach, fresh onions...


single lutheran said...

I also buy mutliple loaves of bread at the same time (usually two). I keep one in the freezer and the other in the fridge. Living alone, I also found that I couldn't always eat through a whole loaf either. Keeping it in the fridge seems to help it stay fresh and it doesn't get moldy. When my loaf in the fridge runs out, I take the one out of the freezer. Keeping it in the fridge and taking out a few slices at a time, (rather than the freezer) means that I don't have to thaw in out. Glad you were able to find another use for it though.



Robbie F. said...

Thanks, single lutheran. My personal experience with fridge bread hasn't been cool, ha ha. You'd be amazed, the places I've gotten mold to grow. I'm that hopeless a Lutheran bachelor!