Friday, December 21, 2007

Local Meal (week 10): Not eggxiting, but I like it

I went to college in Wheaton, Illinois, a city we Wheaties called "Evangelical Mecca." On Sunday mornings, a row of buses from local churches would line up outside the college dining hall and students would board the bus of whatever church suited their fancy that morning. Church seemed to be as much a social event as it was a spiritual event and after the services, people would go to each others’ houses for brunch/dinner/whatever you want to call it. It was so much a tradition that on Sunday mornings spouses would ask each other, "Do we want to have people over today, or do we want to go to someone else’s house?" If they decided to invite people over, they put something in the oven.

It was in Wheaton that I discovered the brunch egg dish I later learned was called "strata." I loved it, but being a college student who lived in the dorms, I never thought to ask anyone for a recipe. In later years, I unsuccessfully tried different recipes to recreate that dish. I finally meshed two recipes together into a combination that comes close to what I remember from school days. Our local meal this week featured my strata accompanied by sourdough toast. Everything was local except for the spices and the bread. Since Laura, the very nice founder of this challenge, is looking for egg dishes (She has chickens! In town!), I’ll include the recipe. Everything is flexible – I use whatever I have.

Egg Strata
6-8 slices of bread, chopped into cubes (it’s better if you take the crust off)
1-2 c cheddar cheese, grated
1-2 c cooked diced ham or cooked bulk sausage (could substitute vegetables)
5-6 eggs
2 cups milk
Garlic salt (not too much)
Seasoning salt (whatever kind you like)
Lemon pepper (this one is the most important)

Combine bread cubes, meat and half the cheese in a buttered baking dish. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and milk together until smooth. Shake seasonings into mixture until it seems like there’s a lot floating on top (that’s my measurement – I’m afraid you’ll have to make up your own). Mix well and pour over bread, meat and cheese. Top with remaining cheese and poke down into the liquid a little. Refrigerate overnight (it works fine to bake it immediately, but the bread cubes will be more evident). Remove from fridge at least one hour before baking. Bake one hour at 350 degrees, uncovered. Use a knife inserted in the middle to test for doneness and serve immediately. Serves 4-6 people and one picky toddler.

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