We all have place memories with certain dishes, sips of wine and even music. When I was about 7 or 8, I remember one Easter my great-grandmother made this elaborate asparagus tart entirely made from scratch. She had specifically requested that my father bring her asparagus of a certain length picked fresh that day. I don’t remember what was in it, I just remember sitting on my grandmother’s kitchen counter watching her make puff pastry by hand and examining dozens of spears of asparagus, tossing the ugly ones into a bowl for another use. Twenty plus years later, I can still recall how the kitchen smelled when that tart came out of the oven and remembering how upset she was at me when I took a bite of it and said it was “gross.” She was a petite old lady who looked harmless, but once she opened her mouth and that thick German accent filled the room, everyone hid.
To this day, I still have a love-hate relationship with asparagus but always seem to find myself making some sort of make-ahead breakfast that contains asparagus in the weeks leading up to Easter. After my great grandmother passed away, our family didn’t put as much effort on Easter as we had while she was still alive, but her adoration of asparagus has lived on.
While it’s not a breakfast tart made with from scratch puff pastry, I’ve been really into serving breakfast strata’s filled with fresh spring vegetables for Easter or another crowd gathering occasion such as Mother's Day, for two reasons:
- it’s a fantastic way to clean out your bread cabinet, vegetable and meat bins in your refrigerator, eliminating waste.
- all of the prep work is done the night before, which means no stress in the morning trying to figure out what to serve for breakfast.
Generally speaking, stratas can be thrown together without a recipe—just toast a little leftover bread, some fresh (or frozen vegetables), your favorite breakfast meat, eggs and lots o’ cheese and you’ve got something that will likely taste pretty good depending on the combination of vegetables and meat you used.
With a fresh batch of bagels in the cupboard, I had four leftover from last week. (I have also used jalapeño bagels which are quite ideal for those who enjoy spicy foods.) I knew they weren’t going to be eaten, so I cubed them up, poured some melted butter and salt and pepper over them and threw them in the oven while I checked the fridge to see what kind of vegetables I had that were nearing the end of their lifespan.
While you’re dicing your vegetables, put your eggs into a bowl with a pinch of salt, whisk them together vigorously and set them aside for about 20 minutes. The eggs will change in color from a light yellow to a vivid orange—trust me, you’ll never make scrambled eggs the same way again. Once the eggs have come to room temperature and have transitioned in color, whisk in the milk. When you pour the egg mixture over the toasted bagels and sautéd vegetables, the eggs will not only be creamy, they’ll be fluffy as well.
At it’s heart, this strata recipe is intended for brunch with a healthy serving of adult libations. Over the last couple of years, mimosas have been all the rage, but you’ll be doing yourself a disservice by tarnishing so-so sparkling wine with average orange juice. Grenache Blanc is hands down my favorite wine to serve during brunch, and it hopefully you’ll love it as much as I do. While high in alcohol content, Grenache Blanc is a full-bodied white wine, with medium acidity and subtle fruit flavors. While it doesn’t specifically pair with asparagus, Grenache Blanc brings out the flavors and aromas of the shallot used in this recipe, as well as other brunch-friendly vegetables such as potatoes, zucchini, yellow tomatoes and cauliflower, all of which would be brilliant additions to this adaptable strata recipe.
Ingredients & Preparation
Preheat oven to 350º.Spread the cubed pieces of bagel over a rimmed baking sheet, pour the melted butter over them and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown, stirring halfway through. Remove from oven and set aside.
In a 5 quart sauté pan, warm the oil and add the shallot. Once tender, add asparagus, artichoke hearts and bell pepper and cook until barely tender. Remove from heat and drain any liquid from the vegetables.
In a bowl, combine the bagel cubes, half the cheese and vegetables until well-mixed. Transfer to a buttered casserole dish, pour the milk and egg mixture over the top and add the last of the cheese.
Cover with plastic wrap, careful to press down on the plastic wrap to really encourage the bagels to soak up the egg mixture. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350º and bake the strata for about 40 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
- 4 bagels, cubed
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 5 eggs
- 1 1/2 cup of milk
- 6 ounces Canadian bacon slices, cooked and chopped
- 1 shallot, diced
- 1 cup diced asparagus
- 1/2 cup diced artichoke hearts
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1/4 cup grated pepper jack cheese
- 1/4 cup grated jack cheese
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese