I was most delighted to have been invited to take part in the Blue Ribbon Best Thing with Sliced Bread competition. Once a month, for the next three months, I will toss into the judges ring a single recipe, which, I will create using a box of mystery ingredients and loaves of Blue Ribbon Bread.
My recipe will be judged against those of blogger Tandy Sinclair from Lavender and Lime and Chantelle Le Roux from Tables and Thyme. The winning recipe of each month will win a R1000 Yuppie Chef Voucher. No campaigning for votes, a great prize and fresh bread. These are all ideas I can get behind.
When I receive a mystery box there are usually one or two ideas that come to mind immediately. I like to sit on those ideas for a while, and see what comes of them. The ingredients in this first box were really great with so many options that would work. I tried to keep in mind that the bread really needed to be the hero, but I still wanted to use it in a less obvious way.
I finally settled on making an Overnight Asparagus and Mozzarella Cheese Strata. A strata or stratta is an American dish, so not something we see too often around here. The most common modern variant comes in the form of a brunch dish, which is not unlike a quiche or frittata. A strata is made from a mixture which mainly consists of bread, eggs and cheese; all of which were ingredients were in my box. The bread forms the base of the recipe, taking the place of a pastry.
I decided to do an overnight version which really gives the bread time to soak up the egg custard resulting in a super light and creamy bake. It also makes this recipe perfect for brunch entertaining as you can prep everything the night before. I kept the spring onions out of the strata itself and fried them to a crispy crunch to give the dish a second dimension of texture.
We ate the strata warm out of the oven and it was just fabulous. I think that if you added some crisp salad greens to it, this dish will transition beautifully from breakfast to a light dinner. Don’t you just love easy recipes that are versatile?
- 8 slices Blue Ribbon Toaster White
- 3 eggs
- 250 ml (1 C) cream
- 125 ml (1/2 C) milk
- 200 g mozzarella cheese, grated
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2.5 ml (½ t) ground nutmeg
- 100 g (1 punnet) asparagus
- fresh chives, snipped
- 3 spring onions
- sunflower oil for frying
- Spray 4 small ovenproof serving bowls with non-stick spray.
- Remove the crusts from the Blue Ribbon Toaster White and cut each slice of bread lengthways into three even strips.
- Lay the bread strips to line the base of the serving bowls.
- Whisk together the eggs, cream and the milk to make an egg custard.
- Stir in half the cheese.
- Season the cream to taste with the salt and pepper and nutmeg.
- Pour about ¾ of the egg custard over the bread. The bread will soften and soak up the egg custard.
- Rinse and drain the asparagus.
- Trim the ends.
- Lay the asparagus on top of the bread.
- Sprinkle with the snipped chives.
- Pour over the remaining egg custard.
- Sprinkle the top with the reserved mozzarella cheese.
- Cover the bowls with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- Remove from the fridge and allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Use a very sharp knife to finely slice the spring onions into fine julienne strips.
- Heat the oil in a shallow frying pan.
- Add the spring onions and fry for 2-3 minutes until crisp.
- Drain the excess oil on a paper towel.
- Bake the strata in an oven preheated to 180˚C for 35 minutes or until the stratas are well risen, golden and set to touch.
- Top with the crisp fried spring onion and serve immediately.