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Last weekend, we celebrated Mother’s Day a week early with Dave’s mom because we will be in Japan this Sunday. Dave’s parents came over and I cooked. When I make brunch, I always like to pair one sweet and one savory dish together, perhaps because when I go out to brunch I can never decide between the two. Last Sunday, I went with apple cinnamon muffins and a spinach and Gruyere strata. The strata is one of my go-to recipes for brunch, mainly because you make it the night before and the next morning all you have to do is bake and serve.

The strata I make combines two great cheeses: Gruyere, my favorite, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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Add to that sauteed onion and spinach, with a hint of nutmeg, and there’s no going wrong.

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Most strata recipes with spinach in them call for frozen spinach, but I like to use fresh. It’s just as easy to work with, and you can usually find pre-washed and bagged leaves, making things even easier. After you’ve sauteed your onion, add all the spinach — it’s going to seem like a lot but it will wilt — and cover, if possible. I use the glass lid from my wok which fits perfectly onto my large saute pan.

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Once the spinach has wilted some, you can remove the lid and stir until you have a nice mixture.

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Strata is a great way to make use of old bread. I like to use sourdough when I make this recipe, but any bread that you like will do. The recipe calls for half a pound of bread so I usually buy a one pound loaf and use half for the strata and slice up the other half for sandwiches.

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While your spinach is wilting, you can cut the bread into large cubes that will soak up all the delicious custard.

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Once your cheese, vegetables, and bread are ready, all that remains is to make the custard.

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Then you want to layer your ingredients in the pan. First comes one third of the bread,

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then one third of the spinach mixture,

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followed by one third of each cheese.

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Repeat the layering process with the remaining two thirds of each ingredient and then pour the custard over it all.

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Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, bake and enjoy.

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My mother-in-law liked it, I hope yours will too.

Spinach and Gruyere Strata
adapted from an epicurious.com recipe
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups finely diced onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
10 oz spinach, washed, large stems removed
1/2 lb sourdough bread (French and Italian bread work well too), cut into 1-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
6 oz coarsely grated Gruyere (about 2 cups)
2 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1 cup)
2 3/4 cups milk (whatever fat percentage you like, I use whole)
9 large eggs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Procedure:
1. Cook onion in olive oil over medium high heat, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper and nutmeg. Stir in spinach until wilted, covering for a few minutes first if possible, then remove mixture from heat.

2. Spread one third of the bread cubes in a 3-quart baking dish. Top with one third of the spinach mixture and sprinkle with one third of each cheese. Repeat layering twice, ending with cheese.

3. Whisk together milk, eggs, and mustard and season with salt and pepper. Pour evenly over ingredients in baking dish. Chill strata, covered, for at least 8 hours.

4. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove strata from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to placing in oven.

5. Bake strata, uncovered, in the middle of the oven, until puffed and golden brown, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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