Birthday strata

Birthday strataShared meals at our house usually revolve around a large pot of soup, some form of veggie-forward tangle and serving dishes for friends to bring along something to share. Guests’ offerings have varied widely – locally made colas, loaves of bread, the kind of salads that always taste great because someone else made them, fixings for an ‘Egyptian breakfast’, chocolate cakes and fruit tarts from the shop down the road – but we’ve only received a set of farm fresh eggs once.

These six beauties were brought all the way from Oban and were guaranteed to be the deepest orange we’d seen. They were, and the color of this strata is here to prove it.

At first I didn’t understand what he’d meant. Arriving after the three hour journey, having collected his girlfriend on the way, they’d brought a bottle of recently-won champagne, rolls to go with this stew we’d made and… a half dozen eggs (to share? hard boiled? to be cooked before we could eat? on what serving plate?). Once I understood that they were from his neighbors and brought for us to use throughout the week, we savored these eggs like the treasure that they were.

Which is why, when I was putting together this birthday strata, I knew they’d be up to the task of producing something great without much effort.

Stratas are like an easier version of quiche in that you don’t need to worry about a crust, but you can still take them in a hundred different directions. All our egg-based meals feel like an opportunity to turn the ends of anything in the kitchen into something special. I used to make quiches a lot when I first started to get the hang of cooking cheaply and well for myself, but we’re more of a fritatta family now that we’ve got a strong cast iron pan to work with. Regardless, these meals start with eggs and accommodate whatever mood or season you are in.

For today’s strata, I beat the final four, gloriously orange and rich eggs with some milk, salt, pepper and a hefty scoop of our favorite wholegrain mustard. Into a fry pan went a wonky leek that had grown around a stone, a small onion, a clove of garlic and a sprinkle of sea salt. Once the leek and onion had collapsed and begun to brown, they were set to the side to cool. Too dry to tear apart (an even easier option if you catch it early enough) the final end of an Andante bloomer was saved from languishing on our counter and cut into large pieces, then thrown into the egg mixture to begin soaking. Once the veggies had cooled, into the bread and eggs they went, with a hearty grating of sharp cheddar. Then the whole mixture was piled into a heavily buttered casserole dish, topped with another grating of cheddar, covered and left in the refrigerator overnight to soak and settle.

In the morning, with the alarm set early enough to allow time for a reasonably slow breakfast before the birthday boy headed off to work, all there was to do was pop the now fully soaked egg mixture into the oven until it set completely and the edges browned nicely (about an hour). A small casserole dish created the perfect ratio of crispy bits to soft bits, and a bleary eyed birthday morning started off with a treat.

Grateful for the gorgeous eggs, and sending the happiest of birthdays to you!

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