In the winter I tend to do more brunch-style entertaining. I’ve come to realize that part of the reason for this is because I like to have people over when there is daylight. In the summer it is easy to throw an evening soiree that begins at five because there are at least three more hours of daylight ahead. But, in the winter, it’s brunch time all the way.
My favorite winter party brunch dish is the classic strata. I find strata-making much easier than tackling a quiche. Since there is no crust making involved, you can save a lot of time. And once you’ve mastered the basic strata recipe you can make them in whatever flavors you want. Quiches aren’t quite as flexible. I find them more finicky since they can bake up differently depending on the fillers I choose.
I generally make mine the night before then bake it up for breakfast the next morning before guests arrive. The recipe below easily feeds a crowd of eight to ten people, or more if a few of the guests are kids.
Overnight Asparagus & Mushroom Strata
7 or 8 thin stalks of asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups coarsely grated Gruyere cheese
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 1/2 cups 1% milk
8 large eggs
1/2 pound ciabatta bread, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1. In a medium saute pan melt the butter over medium heat and add the asparagus, shallots, and mushrooms. Allow the vegetables to saute for about 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms and shallots are softened and the asparagus can be easily speared with a fork.
2. Meanwhile, mix the cheeses in a bowl with the salt and pepper and set aside. Then whisk together the eggs and milk and set aside.
3. Generously butter a 13 x 9 baking dish and layer everything as follows: one third of the bread cubes, followed by one third of the cooked vegetable mixture, followed by one-third of the cheese mixture. Repeat this layering two more times. Then, pour the egg and milk mixture over the entire dish, pushing down on the bread so it begins to soak up the custard. Cover the dish and chill it in the refrigerator for 6 hours, or up to 24.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bring the strata to room temperature, then bake it for 40 to 45 minutes, or until it is puffed up the bread tops are golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
Kelsey Banfield is the author of the popular family cooking blog The Naptime Chef. Her first cookbook, The Naptime Chef: Fitting Great Food into Family Life, was published in spring 2012 by Running Press.