This is part of an ongoing series to celebrate bodegas (and their owners) in New York City, in which we highlight recipes from food writers and chefs made entirely from ingredients purchased in bodegas. Today: Francine Cohen, Editor-in-Chief of Inside F&B, who lived above an Upper West Side bodega for 20 years, tells us how to make strata from widely-available ingredients.
When you move to a new city right after college, you’ve left all your family behind—those bound by blood and those bound by a double-secret probation oath. So, it’s time to create a new family, and new family memories, with the people you encounter most often.
I lived directly above a bodega for the first 20 or so years that I resided on the Upper West Side. It didn’t matter that I didn’t look like the Korean owners, or speak the same language as the Mexican men who watched over the fruit and flower stands on the bodega’s sidewalk space. These were the people who watched out for me and made sure I got home safely at night.
And, if they didn’t consider me family, at least they enabled me to cook the foods which filled my apartment with smells that brought me back to my childhood. The bodega was open 24/7, rain or shine, proffering everything I needed, including the bread, cheese, eggs, milk, and spices needed for this easy-to-prepare strata that my aunt from Norfolk, Virginia, taught me to make. It is the perfect brunch dish, served alone or with a crisp salad—except, of course, if you’re my husband, who has jokingly threatened divorce if I don't stop serving it. It’s worth the attorney fees, though; it’s that good.