Spinach, Sausage, and Cheese Strata

Spinach, Sausage, and Cheese Strata

August 20, 2010

36

I have a confession to make: I am not good at entertaining. I’m actually a nervous wreck about entertaining. Of course, we don’t claim to be Martha Stewart over here at We are not Martha. Just that we strive to be like her. And entertaining is one thing I’m definitely striving to be better at. And in my mind, entertaining is something that gets easier, the more you do it. So, I keep trying. Family is perfect to practice on because they don’t judge too much if you screw everything up (right?!).

Brunch can be the most difficult meal to entertain for because it generally involves people coming over early. So, you either have to wake up at dawn or have a really good plan instead. I invited my family over last weekend (my parents, sister, and her husband) and then started freaking out a bit. What could I make that would be ready at the same time? For 10 a.m.? And that I could serve hot? With as little stress as possible? Because if you know me, you know I’m often found running around like a chicken with my head cut off the second my guests arrive. And then I end up having no fun when I have guests over. Sigh.

I asked our Twitter buddies what I should make for brunch and when Roving Lemon sent me Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Spinach and Cheese Strata, I knew it would be perfect because a) everything Smitten does is gold and b) I could make it the night before and just pop it in the oven in the morning. Fabulous!

Of course, I added some sausage into this strata because, well, my family enjoys meat at breakfast.

Spinach Sausage, and Cheese Strata (serves 8-10):

    • 6 links Italian sausage (I used hot)
    • 10-14 ounces fresh spinach (you can use frozen, too, but I love fresh best)
    • 1 large onion (1.5 C), finely chopped
    • 3 T unsalted butter
    • 1 t salt
    • 1/2 T black pepper
    • 1/4 t nutmeg
    • 8 C cubed French or Italian bread (1/2 lb.)
    • 2 C freshly grated gruyere cheese
    • 1 C freshly grated parmesan cheese
    • 2 3/4 C milk (I used 2%)
    • 9 large eggs
    • 2 T dijon mustard

 

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I started by cooking my sausage. I took the meat out of the casing and crumbled it up. I had a feeling it would be a good addition!

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Then I steamed my spinach to cook it down. I set it aside and sautéed my onion in the butter in a large, heavy skillet. Once it was soft, about 5 minutes, I added the 1/2 salt, 1/4 pepper, and nutmeg and cooked for another minute.

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Then I added the spinach to the skillet and set it aside.

 

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While everything was on the stove, I grated all the cheese. YUM! Is there anything better than gruyere and parmesan?!

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Now it was time to construct the strata. I put a layer of bread on the bottom of my buttered 3 qt. baking dish, using 1/3 of the bread.

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Then I topped it with 1/3 of the spinach mixture, 1/3 the sausage, and 1/3 of the cheese. I repeated until all the ingredients were gone. It was already looking delicious!

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In a separate bowl, I whisked together the eggs, milk, mustard, 1/2 t salt, and 1/4 t pepper.

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And poured it over the ingredients in the baking dish. I was really nervous all the liquid wasn’t going to fit, but it did! Perfectly!

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I wrapped it in plastic wrap and popped it in the fridge, where it has to sit for at least 8 hours, and up to a day. And YAY! I had my main course done with nothing to worry about for the morning 🙂 SUCH a good feeling. I sat on the couch to watch some Dateline with Chris (I know it sounds lame, but it’s our Friday night tradition when we’re just too tired to go out) and went to sleep with no stress.

The next morning, I got up and took the strata out of the fridge. It’s supposed to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Then into the oven it went (uncovered) at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes.

While it was in the oven, Beth and Adam arrived with all the fixing for breakfast cocktails! They made a watermelon and champagne drink.

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And it was absolutely amazing. Who doesn’t love starting Saturday morning with a cocktail of some sort?

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I also made another Smitten Kitchen recipe, for Whole Wheat Apple Muffins. Because I didn’t have to worry about the entree, I could take a bit more time to make the muffins.

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I also made bacon. Obviously. My family really doesn’t eat breakfast without bacon.

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My mom and dad brought a huge delicious fruit salad too. So much beautiful fruit!

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I took the fully baked strata out of the oven!

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And put everything on our lovely little table. This was the most people Chris and I had had over yet in our new apartment yet! Until last night when we had 9 people over (my relatives are in town!), but I did not cook for them!

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Everything was delicious. OK, so the strata may not have been the prettiest thing in the world, but it was certainly very tasty and perfect for a delicious brunch. I was super happy I added in the sausage!

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And that was entertaining done easy. I highly recommend you choose a brunch entree that can be prepared the night before if you freak out about entertaining, too. It also doesn’t hurt when you have amazing guests who offer to help! I actually got to sit with my family and enjoy the meal and conversation instead of running around like a crazy woman.

Another tip? When you invite people over for brunch, it will FORCE you to finish unpacking all the boxes you’ve been avoiding for 3 weeks. Everything is finally unpacked; now we just need to start hanging things on the walls (baby steps here!).

What’s your favorite stress-free brunch dish for entertaining?

[Sues]

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36 Responses to "Spinach, Sausage, and Cheese Strata"

  1. Renee says:

    This looks AMAZING. I think I’m going to add it to our dinner menu next week… yum, I can’t wait.

  2. Erica says:

    What a great spread! Brunch is my favorite meal- hands down! The strata and the fresh fruit look amazing. I like doing homemade parfaits with homemade granola too! Yum!

  3. Nice way to start the day! I could go for a watermelon cocktail right now to kick off the weekend.

  4. Maiah says:

    this looks DELICIOUS. and i love that bacon is a non-negotiable 🙂

  5. Adrienne says:

    Yes! I told you, entertaining is the best way to force yourself to unpack! And that strata looks awesome; we host a brunch on New Year’s Day-so things that can be done in advance are basicaly the only things we serve-strata is always on the menu 🙂

  6. Sues says:

    @Adrienne Yes! I was trying to remember who gave me that advice. It TOTALLY worked! Like a charm 🙂

  7. I’m like you and totally stress out about entertaining. One of my best friends from home lives in SF and is in town. I’m having her and her wife over for dinner next Tuesday for her birthday dinner and I started to stress about getting something wonderful together after work. But I got organized, picked a few dishes that are easily prepared ahead of time, and remind myself that she would never judge me if things aren’t perfect! Kudos to you for being so honest about what worries you!

  8. Susan says:

    This is almost exactly how I handle Christmas morning at our house. A strata made the day before, bacon cooked and reheated in the oven, fresh fruit and mimosas. Nice work! Your strata recipe sounds wonderful too!

  9. Daisy says:

    Sues, I know how you feel! I hadn’t cooked all summer and recently prepared apps and dinner for family in town. (6 people). I am not sure 9 would ever fit in my apt. but perhaps that’s a blessing in disguise. your brunch looks amazing and so do those…umm watermosas? melonmosas? does the watermelon champagne drink have a name? 😉

  10. strata is my go-to big brunch (and sometimes dinner) dish. i make a veggie version that i like to call “erik e. strata” (after the actor from chips)

  11. I’ve personally experienced your hosting skills and I must beg to differ 🙂

    That recipe does look amazing. I’m not an entertainer really, but I’ve always wanted to host a brunch for some reason, maybe it’s because I love mimosas. One day I want to live in a place that has a porch where we could eat.

  12. Shannon says:

    i always try to pick things that can be done ahead of time, great pick here!! looks delish, too 🙂

  13. Strata is such a great brunch dish, and this looks terrific! Love the sausage in it!

  14. I love the idea of using the Italian sausage instead of regular breakfast sausage. Thanks for a great hosting idea!

  15. Looks like you are GREAT at entertaining! Love the strata (looks are not important if it tastes good) and the rest of the goodies you served your guests. Good job! 🙂
    Magda

  16. beth says:

    Sues…. That strata was amazing! Kind of wishing I had a watermelon champagne cocktail for breakfast this morning. You should have mentioned the awesome sangria that Chris and Adam made with the left over fruit and champagne…. what a great morning!

  17. Pam says:

    Everything looks so delicious, especially the strata!

  18. newlywed says:

    I take a similar approach — I make a Caramelized Pear Bread Pudding (it’s not very sweet or heavy, more similar to a baked french toast) that I make the night before, and then just serve it with a little bacon, fruit, and hash browns. No way I am flipping pancakes for people! We eat pancakes for dinner in this house…I am not a morning person.

  19. Your brunch looks amazing! I hope you are enjoying your weekend 🙂

  20. peachkins says:

    my mouth is watering over that Strata!

  21. Diana says:

    Great idea! It’s lovely that you can make it ahead and bake right before company arrives.

  22. Elina says:

    Well done, Susie! 🙂 I’ve never hosted brunch – I would have the same concerns but you did great. I love that there was a “main entree”, muffins and fruit salad… and of course cocktails. Plenty of variety but not a crazy amount of food either. I think the strata does look beautiful, btw! 😀

  23. Bridget says:

    I love brunch!! You did an awesome job with this one, everything looks beautiful and delicious!! I love doing a frittata and a variety of baked goods, but I also love that you can have fun with drinks…different coffees, tea, cocktails, and hot chocolate for winter!

  24. emily says:

    Smitten Kitchen’s recipes are amazing. Glad your strata turned out so well…the brunch looks delish!

  25. Kelly says:

    Aw brunch looks delicious. I definitely freak out about entertaining, and I’m not nearly the great cook you are so I shy away from it. But you are right I should just try to do it.

  26. What an awesome spread!! I would have devoured it all! I’m sure your family really appreciated it. I’m not really in a time of my life where I entertain, but I so enjoy pretending 🙂

  27. Kerstin says:

    What a fabulous spread! I love that brunch is an excuse to get out the booze early too 🙂 I really love entertaining but always have a schedule for myself and make sure I do all the prep work I can the day before because otherwise I get really stressed out.

  28. Priscilla says:

    Everything looks perfect! You guys are no Martha but you dont fall too far behind!!!

  29. haha i’m like that when i have people coming over too! and in the 5 min before i leave everyday… maybe it’s just how i am. haha looks great!

  30. Sharlene says:

    I love this! Do-ahead meals are always a win in my book. Your brunch looked amazing!

  31. Joanne says:

    I know what you mean…I go crazy when I invite people over. This looks like the perfect make ahead meal…although I could probably eat the whole pan myself!

  32. What a beautiful brunch!
    I love stratas and bread puddings, great way to use up stale bread.

  33. Casseroles are the best for a stress-free brunch. We always make one on Christmas Day – but come to think of it I think that’s the only time we do homemade brunch!

    LOVE those watermelon cocktails. Fancy! 🙂

  34. Hey! Thanks for the shout-out, and glad to see the strata and the brunch were both successful!

  35. Jaime says:

    mmmmm that strata looks tasty! love that you can make it ahead of time too

  36. Wonderful brunch. No need to be nervous about entertaining. My trick is “it’s all about the show”. Just be adaptable to whatever hiccups are along the way and pretend you planned them all the time. It works every time for me.

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