STRADA OR SOUFFLÉ?
I grew up in the Midwest.
We never called this stuff "egg strada." We called it the family's Christmas soufflé, and many of us know how to do it thanks to our dearly departed Grandma Lois and all those Christmases in Denver. She and Grandpa were from Nebraska. True Midwest creds.
Why Christmas? Well for one thing if you have it every week you'll need a wardrobe full of larger clothes, but as an annual treat there's no harm in pigging out. So there's that. Also, it's easy for the cook to do this mostly in advance and not be slaving away in the kitchen on Christmas morning while everyone else is opening presents.
Before we get to the recipe part, what the heck is the difference between strada and soufflé, anyway? Patrick (The Chef) can tell you straight up. But I had to look it up.
So I suppose that other than soufflé being too sophisticated for a Nebraska breakfast, the fact that the strada uses bread and sets down rather than puffing up is the main difference.
Now then. You're probably wondering what this has to do with wine. Just wait.
my awesome strada recipe
You can find any number of recipes for "egg strada" on the web. I think I'm the best at it, so I'll give it a go here. And please note: if I can do it, anyone can.
Do this in the morning the day before you're serving it. If you try to shortcut it and don't leave it in the fridge for 18-24 hours, you'll end up with an inferior strada that's watery and weird. It needs time to set: at least overnight.
official ingredients... with notes
- 8 slices crumbled white bread... not Wonder. See below.
- 2 cups grated cheddar... not fancy cheese. Cheddar! I like the flavorful Irish stuff.
- 1 lb. cooked pork breakfast sausage, drained... nothing fancy. See below.
- 3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup... again nothing fancy. Not Progresso Truffle Surprise. Campbell's works jes' fine.
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 2 3/4 cup whole milk... why are you using 2 percent? If you're on a diet step away from this recipe.
method, with my "secret" adjustments
You're supposed to use a 9x12 glass baking dish. Nuh-uh. I love my 8x10, because this stuff is WAY more yummy with an increased ratio of sausage and cheese. Grease an 8x10, or if you're me, double everything and "butter" two so you'll be sure to have some left over. It RULES when reheated.
Sidebar: I don't know how you're supposed to "grease" something with butter, so I just rub it on using a paper towel. Try to use unsalted butter because trust me this stuff needs no extra salt. And if you have margarine in the kitchen throw that slop out. Patrick should do a post on that.
Before you start tearing bread, get the sausage cooking. It will end up crumbled and slightly crispy, and drained of grease, when you're done. The spicy Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage works great. Don't get weird and do Italian sausage or something gnarly that'll mess it up.
While the sausage is cooking, it's time to start tearing bread.
Don't use Wonder bread. Ew. Also, potato bread makes the strada oddly yellow. I like a French baguette or similar. Something hardy. Patrick would probably say that it doesn't matter but I don't care. Wonder bread is nasty.
Tear enough bread (including crust) into little pieces so that, without packing it down, it fills the dish most of the way. For an 8x10 dish, you'll need more than 6 ordinary slices of bread but way less than 8. Too much bread makes the strada gelatinous.
I used to tear the bread up into tiny specks but it doesn't matter. Don't spend all morning on it.
Next, grate cheddar across it. You needn't measure, but avoid the temptation to bury the dish in a mountain of cheese. The resulting strada will have pools of cheese grease on the top (gag). I use more than the called-for 2 cups per 8x10 dish, but not a lot more. The majority goes on at this stage but save some for later.
Now get the sausage you already cooked and crumbled, and sprinkle it on there. Don't forget the corners.
Grate some more cheese on there.
See how mine is sticking up over the top of the dish's side edges? That's okay. It'll set down.
Now get a dish whisk together the raw eggs with 2 1/4 cups of milk (some milk is left). Use precise measurements on the milk.
Use a spoon to spread it over the strada. I don't know if it matters but I try to spoon it evenly over the whole thing. Mind the corners.
Now, use the same dish to whisk together the rest of the milk, the soup, and the dry mustard. Measure precisely; too much mustard can overpower the other flavors. Spoon it as evenly as you can over the strada. You're not frosting a cake so don't smash it down or try to make it pretty.
Cover it with foil and stick it in the refrigerator.
Now as I've said, this needs at least overnight in the fridge, but preferably 18-24 hours, so it can set down.
In the morning turn on the oven about 2 and a half hours before you're going to serve it. Shove it in the cold oven and turn the heat up to 300°F.
Why not preheat it? I have no clue. It just sounds like something with which you ought not experiment.
Bake it 90 minutes.
For oven newbies, don't make the mistake I made. In a non-convection oven, you can't put one on the top rack and one on the bottom rack or else neither will be done, especially the one on top. They have to go side-by-side. I place them on a cookie sheet in case they bubble over, but this past Christmas they didn't.
At the end of 90 minutes, they should be bubbling and browning on the bottom (visible through the glass). Take the foil off and let the tops set in there for 15 more minutes.
They'll need 30 minutes MINIMUM to cool. 75% of all my life's seared tongue incidents are the fault of this recipe and me trying to shovel it in while it's still 300°F. You'll want to because of how good it smells. Don't.
wine pairing & plating
Ideal: champagne (sparkling wine) or mimosas. Sparkling wine LOVES salty food. The strada is no exception. Celebrate!
Also: a dry or off-dry Riesling or Gewürztraminer or Grüner Veltliner works well with the strada. There's nothing like a fine wine to dress up what was made out in the double-wide.
Pair with a nice fruit salad of kiwi and berries, and perhaps some buttered sourdough toast.