Off-Script With Sohla

December 8, 2020

Sohla Shows You How to Strut Your Strata

Every month, in Off-Script With Sohla, pro chef and flavor whisperer Sohla El-Waylly will introduce you to a must-know cooking technique—and then teach you how to detour it toward new adventures. Many of you have been asking me for a frittata recipe. Instead, I’m going to show you something even better—how to go off-script with strata. Strata is the love child of frittata and bread pudding. Picture: a tender, fluffy egg custard soaking into toasty bread and wrapping around the mix-ins of your choice. I’m actually not a fan of frittatas or bread puddings (I know I’m alone in this, but hear me out!). When making a frittata, it’s hard to not overcook your eggs; on the stovetop, the edges often become dried-out by the time the dense center has set. On the other hand, bread pudding can quickly become heavy and one-note from the cream and egg yolk custard. But somehow, when you smash those two ideas together, you get something rich but not too heavy and, of course, endlessly riffable. All you need to make strata is bread of any kind, from stale brioche to yesterday’s biscuits, milk, eggs, and mix-ins. It’s the ideal brunch dish to assemble the night before. Come morning, just pop it in the oven, then turn your attention to more important matters, like squeezing fresh orange juice for your mimosa. But don’t let the eggy custard limit this dish to breakfast; prep your strata in the morning with any leftovers for the fastest weeknight dinner. This recipe can be easily scaled down to use up a little bit of this or that, or doubled to feed a large family. Learn my strata formula, so you can get creative and take it off-script. A warm, saucy skillet we would like to crawl inside. Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Amanda Widis. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Let’s Get Toasty Mostly bread and eggs, strata can become heavy, boring, and bland. That’s why I like to make sure every component is well seasoned and delicious on its own. Traditionally, strata is made with stale bread but, to level it up, I turn my bread cubes into croutons. I toss bread with melted butter or olive oil and season it with salt, pepper, dried herbs, and spices until it tastes like something I want to munch on by the handful. Every bread is different, so toss, taste, and adjust. For my Pizza Party Strata, I start with garlic bread (homemade or store-bought both work), which is already smothered in butter, herbs, and garlic, so I don’t need to add a thing. While the cubes of cornbread in my Corny Strata get a little assist from butter and smoked paprika. Once seasoned, I toast the cubes in the oven, which adds a bit of texture to the dish and deep, roasty flavors from the browning. An Egg-Cellent Base The eggy custard is simply a mixture of eggs and milk. I opt not to use cream for a lighter strata that eats like fluffy scrambled eggs. I prefer whole milk, which adds just enough fat for a creamy custard that’s not too heavy. But feel free to play around with combinations of half-and-half, two-percent milk, and even alt-milk like oat, coconut, and cashew. You can mix things up, swapping some of the milk for bone broth for some meaty flavor. I recommend avoiding very lean or bland liquids, like almond or skim milk; I don’t think they bring enough to the table. This custard is heavy on the eggs, to steer away from bread pudding slash stuffing territory and into savory frittata land. Season the custard with salt, pepper, and seasonings (like smoked paprika, instant dashi powder, OR Knorr chicken bouillon), then have some fun with your mix-ins. Mix & Mingle For best results, stick with precooked ingredients, like cubes of roasted squash or rotisserie chicken, and quick-cooking ingredients, such as corn, kale, or spinach. Anything too watery, like mushrooms or zucchini, should get sauteed before joining the party, or it can make the strata taste bland. Raw meat won’t have enough time to cook in the strata, so anything like sausage or ground beef should be seared in advance. Keep your mix-ins simple by seizing this as an opportunity to use up leftovers. Or get a little crazy and follow a fun theme: For my Pizza Party Strata I use pepperoni, mozzarella, and marinara for a strata that eats like a skillet pizza. I felt the Corny Strata begged for a Tex-Mex vibe so I loaded it up with jalapeños, scallions, and cheddar. Go rogue and make hamburger strata, filled with toasted potato buns, seared and crumbled ground beef, and American cheese. Really change it up and make a chilaquiles-inspired frittata, using tortilla chips instead of bread and topped with salsa, cotija cheese, and avocado. The options are endless! A lot of cheese is the right amount of cheese. Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Amanda Widis. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Come Together Once you have your croutons, custard, and mix-ins, it’s time to bring it all together. Take your time tossing everything in a large bowl until the croutons have soaked up the liquid and the mix-ins are evenly distributed. Now scrape the mixture into a casserole dish or, my preferred vessel, the cast-iron skillet, which holds heat better for golden, crusty edges. For best results, cover and chill the prepared strata overnight, so the bread has time to soak in all that eggy goodness. But don’t fret if you’ve got to bake this right away—it will still be delicious. Final Touches After baking, the starta will gently puff, feel bouncy-firm to the touch, and have a crunchy, golden-brown top. I like to finish it with something fresh, like crisp sliced scallions, sharp grated pecorino cheese, or a drizzle of fruity extra-virgin olive oil. Let your strata rest for 10 minutes before digging in, and serve alongside a crunchy salad or roasted veggies to round out the meal. I like to serve my Pizza Party Strata with extra warm marinara on the side, while a dollop of yogurt takes the edge off the jalapeños in my Corny Strata. Leftover strata sets up sliceable and firm, so my favorite way to reheat it is by browning wedges in a hot skillet until crusty and brown. With this strata method in your playbook, you’ll always know what to do with leftovers. Now you can pull an impressive brunch— or Tuesday dinner—out of your back pocket without breaking a sweat. Pizza Party Strata With Garlic Bread & Pepperoni Cornbread Strata With Cheddar & Jalapeños From Our Shop Sale! Staub Traditional Skillet, 11" $286–$293 $149–$169 More Colors Sale! Staub Matte Ceramic Rectangular Baking Dish $34–$84 $34–$69 More Options