Remember how smug I was when it came to baking extra cake for the New Year, Same Us brunch?
About that. I think it’s time I come clean, lest you think that I’m completely insufferable.
There’s something very important that you should know about me. Once I’ve had a few drinks, I begin planning elaborate events. And, so, although I had toyed with the idea of hosting a New Year’s Day brunch for a few weeks before making any sort of decision, it was only two days before that I was willing to commit. I was at another party that I had helped plan and keeping track of my wine glasses solely by the charms on them.
I’m reminded here of that famous Mark Twain quote, Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That’ll teach you to keep your mouth shut.
I’m overstating here, as I was making plans and really just looking for a reason to take the leap. If you’ve been reading along here, I’m sure that my love of brunch is apparent. But, I knew that hosting one on New Year’s Day would mean waking up early to make sure that everything was just so because who wants to start their year off with lukewarm eggs and soggy bacon? And, I wasn’t confident in my ability to do soon most weekends I’m not. It seemed wise that I should plan for any and all contingencies. And, so: strada.
Do you know about this? It’s essentially a savory bread pudding. It’s rich although adaptableyou can make it with milk if heavy cream seems a bit much. It’s infinitely adaptable andmind you, this is the best partit needs to be made at least eight hours ahead. In other words, this is the ultimate brunch dish. On the day of, all you need to do is let it warm to room temperature while your oven is heating. Then you can enjoy it with your guests. And, isn’t that the whole point of brunch, anyway?
Acorn Squash and Kale Strada
3 cups kale, with stems removed
1 acorn squash, diced
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 cup water
3 TBS olive oil, plus an additional 1 tsp reserved for greasing the baking dish
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 cups french bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cups grated sharp cheddar
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
8 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste
The night before:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the acorn squash with 2 TBS olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until the pieces are beginning to get soft and brown, 30-45 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.
While the squash is baking, place a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 TBS olive oil. Once it was warmed, add in the onion and the thyme and saute until the onion is translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add in the kale and stir. Add 1/4 water to the skillet and allow the kale to steam until it has wilted, covering as necessary, and stirring occasionally. This should take approximately 5 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.
In a large bowl, combine the eggs, milk, heavy cream, and nutmeg, whisking until the eggs have all been combined. Set aside.
Using the remaining oil, butter a shallow oven safe baking dish. Spread one third of the bread cubes at the bottom of the baking dish. Top evenly with one third of the kale, one third of the acorn squash, and one third of the grated cheddar. Repeat the process twice, ending with the cheese. Pour the egg mixture over evenly over the layered bread and vegetables and cover the baking dish with plastic wrap. Chill for at least eight ours.
30 minutes before you are ready to bake the strada, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and remove the strada from the refrigerator. Let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and bake, uncovered, in the middle rack of your oven until the strada has turned golden brown, puffed up and cooked completely through. This will take 45-55 minutes. Allow the strada to stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving.