A few months ago, some friends organized a brunch for their niece who would soon be graduating from college. They invited friends from various industries, from fashion to publishing, giving each of them some time to talk about their work. I thought it was a fantastic idea for anyone preparing to leave the relative cocoon of education for the ‘real world’. As if we needed convincing to spend time with this incredible couple and their charming niece, we were given the most spectacular brunch as well. By far the highlight of which for me was this Strata. Pancetta makes any dish delicious but combined here with leeks and cremini mushrooms, the result was an incredibly savory breakfast bake that easily fed a crowd. A recipe I know I’ll be making again and again.
1 baguette, sliced into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 ounces pancetta, cubed
2 leeks, trimmed, sliced lengthwise and then thinly sliced
4 cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
4 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
3 cups grated gruyere, divided
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F degrees. Lay the diced baguette on a sheet pan and toast for 10 minutes, turning half way through baking. Keep the oven on after it has finished toasting.
2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and fry the pancetta until browned, about 5-10 minutes. Remove to drain on a paper towel lined plate.
3. Discard all but one tablespoon of the fat and add the leeks to the pan. Cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes until soft. Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook for a further 2 minutes.
4. In a bowl, mix together the eggs, yolk, cream and milk until well blended.
5. In a 9 inch ovenproof skillet, toss together the toasted bread cubes, pancetta, leeks, mushrooms, thyme and 2 cups of the gruyere. Lastly, gently stir in the goat cheese.
6. Pour the eggs over the bread mixture and sprinkle with the remaining gruyere.
7. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes. The strata is done once the center bounces back when tested