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Monday, March 19, 2012

i ♥ breakfast for dinner: ma's ham & spinach strata.

i'm going to call it sunday brunch, as that's when most normal people would eat such an animal, but we love breakfast & brunch for dinner, so that's when we got down and dirty with not one, but two, of my 'ma's ham & spinach strata'. a 'strata' is basically a layered casserole/quiche-like dish, made with a mixture of eggs, veggies, meat and sometimes bread. my mom has been making this recipe since we were wee, and it was always such a big deal when she did. it's delicious, fresh and not completely terrible for you, but is an absolute pain in the ass to make, hence why it was always a treat when she pulled one (or two) out of the oven on sundays. over a couple of white wine spritzers, my ma and i whipped up two strata's for sunday dinner yesterday. buon appetito.

how we do: ma's ham & spinach strata
{serves 6 italians or 10 mangia cakes.}
prep time: 30 minutes
cook time: 1 hour
rest time: 15 minutes
eating time: fast enough that you're complaining about how 
full you are before you even finish

you will need:
1 x 397 g package of puff pastry
2 x 300 g packages of frozen spinach
6 large or 8 small eggs
250 g  of cheddar cheese
1 large red pepper
pound of shaved black forest ham
salt & pepper
10" spring form pan
rolling pin
pastry brush

*pop bob marley's 'gold' album on. 
when it's 22°and the sun is shining on march 18th, you have no choice.
i'm going to preface this post with an apology for the amount of pictures, but with the number of steps involved to make this beast, i felt it was necessary. preheat your oven to 350°. getting your ingredients prepped is the key to making this process as smooth and painless as possible. this includes grating your cheese, slicing your red pepper into thin rings, prepping the eggs and spinach.
when i asked my mom why she uses frozen spinach over fresh, she basically told me 'because she does'. so just use the frozen shit and don't ask any questions. take your packages of spinach out of the freezer the night before to defrost. once it has thawed, you can remove it from the packaging and place in a strainer while you prep your other ingredients. once that's done, come back to your spinach. you want to remove as much water from the spinach as humanly possible, which requires a little elbow grease. take your spinach in handfuls, and squeeze the hell out of it, until it stops dripping. if your spinach is wet when you make your strata, the water will come out while cooking, and make for a shlip shloppy strata. barf.
now that all your ingredients are ready, you can start working on your puff pasty. keep your pastry in the fridge right up until the time you need to use it, you want it nice and chilled. flour your counter and rolling pin, and roll out your pastry until it is large enough to cover the bottom and up the sides of your spring form pan, without being tight. ensure you have about an inch of pastry over the edge of your pan, so you can pinch it to the lid you will make in a bit. there is no need to grease your pan, as the pastry is 99.9% butter and will not stick. the only place it actually will stick, is your thighs. and boy does it stick real good.
you will build two full layers of  all your ingredients, so do your best separating everything evenly in two. basically half your cheese, ham and pepper, 1 package of spinach and half the eggs per layer. take your eggs and whip them in a bowl with a little salt and pepper. your strata starts with a layer of black forest ham, then your grated cheese, the spinach, the egg mixture and the red peppers on top. season with salt and pepper and start your layers over again.
ham. cheese. spinach. eggs. red peppers. salt & pepper. delish.
with your layers complete, you can roll out a lid for your strata. basically the same steps as the base you made, making sure it's big enough to cover the entire top of your pan, with enough extra to pinch the two layers together. you almost want to roll them together so they form a seal that won't leak or let too much air out while it's cooking. at the same time, you don't want too much excess pasty, so trim off any longer pieces and make it as uniform as you can. with a sharp knife, make a few slits or "vents" as ma calls them on the top to allow any steam to escape while cooking. without the vents, your strata would be mushier than a full diaper. if you wanna get crafty, you can use your extra pastry and some cookie cutters to make cut outs to decorate the top of your strata. my mom has used the same clover cutters since the beginning of time, and it just wouldn't taste the same without them.
pop your strata in the oven for 1 full hour, so the egg cooks and sets, and until your pastry turns lovely and golden and crisp. after an hour, you can take it out and let it rest for 15 minutes. you want everything to stop cooking and have a chance to cool for a bit before you start cutting that sucker up and letting all the juices run out. this step is the difference between a fluffy, flaky strata, and one that is completely and utterly caca.
while it's hot, slice up some nice generous pieces (don't be shy) and serve with breakfast wieners, peameal bacon and fresh tomato slices. i like to slather some "frank's hot sauce" on mine (i put that shit on everything). it's buttery, crisp, fresh and light, and tastes like sundays growing up at my parents house. i love it, and i hope you love it too.


  1. That looks AMAZING!!

  2. That DOES look very much like my sort of treat! I just loooove spinach, eggs, ham, cheese and anything that combination creates. Will be trying this one for sure.

    Don't apologise for your photos, I like perving on your ingredients lol. They are similar yet so different to ours.

    1) I've never heard of black forest ham. It looks like what we would call champange ham.
    2) American/Canadian cheddar cheese looks so much more yellow than any of ours!
    3) Your puff pastry needs to be rolled. Our comes only in prerolled large squares. I like yours better because it can be made to fit a bigger area, or a round shape without cutting all the edges off.
    4) Your eggs are so white???
    5) Perfect-ass capsicum. i mean "red pepper".


  3. Holy jesus this looks amazing - Chris really got the shit end of the stick when he married me - Your paulie is a lucky man - make sure he knows that!
    I can't bake a damn (except pretzel bites now lol) ... I can cook decent but I do so much prefer and appreciate when someone else's efforts go into such elaborate yummy dishes and not my own. Funny enough dinner tonight includes a yummy baked chicken and penne alfredo courtesy of Costco with some red wine straight from the LC lol Pathetic, I know ;)

  4. Very lovely! I'm going to try and make it one Sunday, I also love breakfast for dinner! Thanks for the recipe. I mostly am intrigued by the fact that your nails are already a new colour, you mean business!

  5. thanks ladies!!! hannah--it's so weird how everything can be so different! who knew things changed that much from one end of the world to the other. you should definitely try this, i know you and jason could whip something up that tastes even better ;) oh, and i will stay camera happy for you ;)

    aimee, you make me howl. if chris got the "shit end" of the stick, than i feel even more sorry for paul than i did before! poor bastard, all he has it that i love to cook. he thinks his sous chef, so when i cook with my mom or nonna, it's a definite treat :)

    and fran, you noticed! lol. i can't handle a chip or when they start to peel. so i have to take it off and get something fresh on asap. you're so friggen' cute.



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