Souper Tuesday: Crazy-Making Spinach and Cheese Strata
My quest for the perfect recipe for today’s final installment of Souper Tuesday: National Hot Breakfast Month resulted in a far-from-perfect recipe and a totally disastrous night.
But I didn’t just go through all that for nothing. I did it to bring you the details.
I debated between two recipes for this week. I had some croissants in the freezer left over from the holidays, and was drooling over this decadent Croissant French Toast. But I also had a bag of spinach nearing its expiration date, and thought this Baked Eggs in Creamed Spinach recipe looked delicious.
But why, I decided at 5:40 tonight, make either of those seemingly easy, fantastic dishes when I could hunt down a completely new different recipe that would more efficiently use BOTH ingredients?
I found one that seemed to do the job: Spinach Feta Strata. Never mind the fact that it called for frozen spinach and I had fresh, and it called for twice as many croissants as I possessed, and I did not have one of the ingredients in the name of the recipe (feta). I’d make it work.
I got to splitting croissants and chopping spinach and whisking eggs, improvising as I went along. By the time the dish was ready to go in the oven, it was 6:15. This is about the time we normally start eating. Glancing at the recipe, I realized that the strata needed to cook for 40-45 minutes, and sit for another five.
I know better than to start a recipe without reading it all the way through. It was a rookie error. But there was no turning back now.
I could hear Pat bringing Rory down from the playroom, assuming the food must be ready soon. “Turn back!” I hissed. Noah had been occupied building a fort out of chair cushions on the porch, but when his friend had to go home, his low blood sugar started to rear its ugly head.
From the kitchen I could hear Pat telling Noah to put the cushions back on the chairs. I heard the thump of a 43 pound body throwing itself down in protest and then, as predictable as lightening after thunder, a loud wail.
I checked the strata. The cheese was still pale, the center uncooked.
Soon the wail had migrated to the top of the stairs, where Pat was attempting to put Noah in time out. Rory, now left to his own devices, prowled the kitchen. He attempted to pull open the stubborn pantry door. Thwarted, he moved to the refrigerator. He reached for the handles, yelling, “Milk! Milk!”
I moved the strata to the top rack of the oven and turned the heat up to 375.
I grabbed Rory’s milk, cut up some grapes and set them at the kitchen table. They were gone in a matter of seconds. Rory started to shout his mostly unintelligible demands again. Pat returned to the kitchen, and from upstairs I could hear Noah yelling, “Daddy! Don’t put out the silverware! Nooooo!” Then the bump bump of him sliding back down the stairs against orders, testing the bounds of his timeout.
The strata still looked anemic. I cranked up the broiler.
Noah appeared in the kitchen, red-faced and rubber-limbed.
“You can get the forks,” I told him. “And here are napkins.”
“Why do we always only have three napkins???” he shrieked.
I saw smoke rising from the back of the stove. I grabbed an oven mitt and pulled the strata from the oven. It was puffy, with satisfying brown spots on top.
You know what? For all of the reworks and shortcuts, it was good. And that was the one positive thing Noah said between grumbles about how he didn’t like Daddy for putting him in timeout and how nobody liked him and he was going to get his cars to fight back if Daddy didn’t let him do what he wanted to do.
It was downhill from there. Noah lost after-dinner treat privileges for failing to put on his pajamas in the extremely generous amount of time allowed, then spent the next 30 minutes flailing, sobbing, flopping, screaming and blaming his misery on me. (“WHY DID YOU NOT HELP ME??!!”)
Despite all the chaos, the strata was tasty. Though I’ve certainly learned my lesson about trying new recipes at the last minute. If you’re smart, you’ll make this one the night before so you can just pop it in the oven in the morning and enjoy. The link to the original recipe is above, my improvised version is below.
Crazy-Making Spinach and Cheese Strata
3 large croissants, halved lengthwise
1 1/2 c. milk
6 oz. bag spinach, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 c. shredded gruyere and swiss cheese
1. Heat oven to 350. Lightly grease 9×13 baking dish. Arrange croissant halves so they cover the bottom of the dish, overlapping if needed.
2. Whisk together eggs, milk, spinach, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
3. Pour egg mixture over croissants in dish. Sprinkle with cheese. (At this point you’re supposed to cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. I didn’t do this, obviously.)
4. Bake, uncovered, 40 to 45 minutes, or until a knife stuck near the center comes out clean and the cheese is golden brown (or until you can’t take any more of your children’s screaming, whichever comes first).