Friday, April 2, 2010

Stale bread, a pepper starting to turn, and a Lemon anyone?

Using every piece of food we bring into the house and not turning it into waste is my goal, but it can definitely take some creative thinking, or at least a good snuggle in a comfy chair with a pile of cookbooks and some time on your hands.

Thank you to Donna Dooher and Claire Stubbs who gave me a free, signed copy of their cookbook Out to Brunch: At Mildred Pierce Restaurant which has a fabulous way to use up some really, really stale bread and a starting to wrinkle red pepper. Tonights dinner includes a slight variation to their Roasted Pepper and Basil Strata.

Serves 6 [hopefully this thing freezes well since there are only two of us]

Before you start...
The night before, remove all the crusts from the loaf and slice bread into 3/4" cubes. Spread the cubes out onto a baking sheet and leave out to dry overnight. The drier the bread, the better our results will be. [Hopefully crust isn't too much of an issue since my bread dried out somewhere around 3 or 4 weeks ago in the fridge.]

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup onion, thinly sliced
1 loaf of their perfect breakfast brioche (page 32 in the cookbook) or crusty Italian loaf, cubed and dried (about 10 cups)
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup fontina cheese, grated [I had cheddar in the fridge, so I used that]
1 cup roasted red or yellow peppers, peeled, seeded, and sliced [I didn't feel like the hastle of roasting them, I just used fresh]
1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
5 large eggs
1 cup milk [it called for 2%, but we're skim people so that's what I used]
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt [I used sea-salt since I'm out of kosher salt]
1 teaspoon dry mustard

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft and just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, toss together the dry bread cubes with the onions, feta, and fontina cheeses, roasted peppers, and basil.

In a small bowl [Tim's not going to be happy about the number of dishes this meal causes!], whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and dry mustard. Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes, gently tossing to combine.

Divide the bread mixture evenly into a buttered jumbo muffin tin (for 6 muffins). Cover lightly with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the plastic wrap and place the muffin tin on a baking sheet. Bake the strata for 40 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Enjoy immediately.

~::~ After the Meal ~::~

Wow! I need to have stale bread around more often. Who knew bread as hard as a rock can actually be turned into something other than just bread crumbs? These were delicious! Even Tim liked them.

The chicken breasts I baked with thyme, lemon zest, lemon slices, salt, pepper, and orange juice, were okay, but a little dry. But it used up that lemon that was leftover from the Sole I made a few weeks ago.

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