I have a new mother in my life. Well, she’s just over a year old (as a mother), and I’m lucky to have her take care of our baby, and our family, day in and day out. Like all mothers, she is deserving of appreciation for all that she does. And like all good fathers, I try to tell her how awesome she is on a daily, if not weekly, basis. With Mother’s Day coming up, it gives me a reason and an opportunity to really amp up the thanks, and as cliched as it sounds, breakfast in bed is a truly memorable start to the day that really hits the nail on the head. Perhaps the only time of year it is acceptable to eat in your pajamas, breakfast in bed is also a great time to involve your kids, and have them be complicit in the preparation. I have a 16-month-old boy at home, so because he’s pretty much useless in the kitchen right now, I’ve chosen a recipe where most of it is done the night before while he’s asleep.
Spinach, Caramelized Onion, and Gruyere Strata served in a Bacon Ring
note: you will need 2 muffin trays for this recipe
yields approximately 10 strata muffins
1 onion, sliced
1 tbsp butter, unsalted
10 oz spinach (about 1 bunch, or 2 cello-boxes)
½ tsp Nutmeg, freshly grated
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup milk
6 whole eggs
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
10 oz white bread, cut into approximately 1 inch dice
2 cups (150 gr) Gruyere cheese, grated
12 slices bacon
The night before, after all the kids are in bed and all you want to do is crush a bottle of wine and pass out in front of Netflix, go into the kitchen and start preparing.
Sweat the onions in the butter in a covered pan over medium low heat. Season with salt and pepper and cook until translucent.
Meanwhile, bring an inch of water to boil in a large pot over a medium high heat. Add the spinach and wilt. Season with salt and the nutmeg. Stir well, strain, and cool. Once cool squeeze the spinach between a few layers of paper towel to remove as much excess water as possible. Roughly chop the spinach.
In a bowl, whisk the eggs and the milk together with the mustard. Fold in the bread, the spinach and the onions. Cover with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge overnight. Grate the cheese now too and set that aside in the fridge. Crush a bottle of wine and pass out in front of Netflix.
The morning of, after you have quietly slipped out of bed and soothed your crying child, changed his diaper, and made yourself a coffee and him a steamed milk, start the breakfast in bed.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Make sure your kid stays away from the stove.
Take out two muffin tins. Grease one muffin tin with butter, then dust with flour. This will help prevent the strata from sticking.
Take out the strata mix and fold in the grated gruyere. Give a couple of pieces of the cheese to your child for approval. If he spits it out just shake your head and be happy that you tried.
Fill each muffin mold with the strata. Going a little high here is no problem, as the strata isn’t really going to rise much. Place in the oven on a lower rack and set a timer for 45 minutes.
To make the bacon rings, turn the second muffin tin upside down. Wrap a slice of bacon around the base of each muffin mold, overlapping the ends. Set the muffin tray onto a baking sheet (this will prevent the fat from falling to the base of your oven and starting a grease fire, which you don’t want on Mother’s Day. Believe me.). 25 minutes before the strata is finished cooking, place the bacon in on an upper rack.
While bacon and strata are cooking, open a bottle of sparkling and make mimosas (1/2 sparkling wine and ½ orange juice). Or just leave out the OJ and start the day with a buzz. You can use this time to make a fruit salad as well, or even just place some nice ripe strawberries in a bowl. Or play with your kid. He might make you read that goddam pop up book five or six times. Hence leaving the OJ out of the picture.
After 45 minutes take the bacon and strata out of the oven. The strata should be golden brown on top – if not, put back in the oven for another 5 minutes or so. Cool the bacon, then remove each ring and drain on a paper towel. Then place one ring on a plate, topped with a second ring (for height and extra bacon). Unmold a strata and place in the bacon ring. Make a second one for yourself. Mash up another strata for your kid, or else deal with the food jealousy.
Bring your child to his mother, and give her a glass of bubbly. Then ON THE SECOND TRIP* bring her the strata, with the fruit if you have it. And there you have it. You just nailed Mother’s Day Breakfast in Bed.
*I say the second trip because many fathers learned at the school of “one trip rules them all” and try to carry everything at once. Not a big deal if it’s just the food and booze. Add a kid under one arm and you’re setting yourself up for a Mother’s Day at the ER.