Merrill's baby Clara has quite the appetite -- and it's all Merrill can do to keep up. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, she steps into the fray.
Today: A brunch strata, for when company comes.
Clara turns two in January, which means we're finally starting to emerge from the cocoon that having a baby seems to weave around a lot of first-time parents. (Of course, we all know those people with multiple children under three who manage to throw regular dinner parties -- and don't we all resent them just a little bit?)
Anyway, we're trying to see people more -- to have people over every once in a while now that there aren't baby swings and Jumperoos strewn everywhere, as if our house were some kind of bizarre, colorful obstacle course.
And because a lot of our friends also have young kids, this is often a family affair. A few weeks ago we invited our friends Tyler and Betsy for brunch, along with their two little girls, who are three and six months. I was faced with a dilemma: what to make for brunch that would please two toddlers and four tired and hungry adults without requiring last minute preparation (sorry, pancakes and French toast, that leaves you out) -- or creating a sinkful of dirty dishes on a Sunday afternoon.
Strata, of course! I love strata not only because it's a "kitchen sink" dish that lets you use up lots of things that may be lying around (slightly wilted greens, random nubs of cheese), but also because it looks lovely, and you can serve it right from the pan. Plus, you do all the assembly the night before, and then just bake it before you're ready to eat.
This version is jam-packed with goodies, which is how I like it. (In my world, the bread is a key part of the dish, but the other components should hold equal weight.) I made this strata with a combination of chard and kale, but any dark greens will do. I also used three different kinds of cheese, because I am unable to exercise restraint when it comes to cheese. Feel free to use two kinds, or even just one. And if you don't eat meat, just skip the sausage -- it will still be delicious.
More: Another breakfast option: Don't Hold the Anything Breakfast Bread Pudding
Unsalted better (for the baking dish)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausages
1 cup finely chopped shallots
1 large bunch kale, spinach, or chard, stems removed, washed, dried and roughly chopped (about 6 cups)
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 1/2 cups cubed stale bread (3/4-inch)
3/4 cups grated Gruyere
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup grated Pecorino
Photos by James Ransom