20120811

DEAD BREAD LIVES AGAIN AS A SAUSAGE STRATA!

 
I don't know about you but I am always ending up with tail ends of loaves of bread.  Those last 2 or 3 pieces that are too dry to use for a sandwich.  If the bread is plain I'll dry it more in the oven, grind it up and use it as bread crumbs.  (Seriously? You're still paying for bread crumbs??) If it has seeds or nuts or whatever on the crust I'll freeze it until I get enough to turn it into a strata!

What is a Strata? It's a layered casserole dish similar to a quiche or frittata, made from a mixture which mainly consists of bread, eggs and cheese though it may also include meats or vegetables. The usual preparation requires that the bread be layered then the custard mixture poured over it - hence the name "strata".

I prefer using a method more similar to a savory bread pudding where the bread is broken up into pieces and soaked in the custard mixture before placing it in the baking dish. It's just a personal thing, I think the bread crust gets more evenly distributed this way.

A strata is traditionally served warm, right out of the oven BUT since I am into "tiny foods" and always looking for new happy hour snacks, I have been known to cut a strata cold.  I simply cut pieces into 1" cubes, poke a cocktail pick in them and serve them up chilled with a matching dipping sauce for a cocktail snack!

Strata Trivia: The earliest strata recipe known is a 1902 recipe for Cheese strata, a gratin of layers of bread, white sauce, and cheese, but no eggs.

My latest strata recipe is my
SEXY SAUSAGE STRATA
(Why sexy? Because it makes you feel all warm and happy inside and afterwards you're very satisfied!)

INGREDIENTS
1 Loaf "Dead" (Dry) Bread
4 Eggs
1-1/2 C. Milk
3 Sweet Italian Sausage Links
1/2 C. Diced Onions
8 Oz. Small Curd Cottage Cheese
8 Oz. Shredded Cheddar
Any Leftover Cheese*
3 Tbsp. Melted Butter
2 Tbsp. Yellow Mustard
1 Tsp. Pollen Ranch Spicy Fennel Sea Salt
Black Pepper to Taste
Spray Cooking Oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

TOOLS
Measuring Cups and Spoons
Large and Medium Mixing Bowls
Large Saute Pan
13x9x2 Baking Dish
 
DIRECTIONS
  1. Spray a 13x9x2 baking dish with cooking oil spray.
  2. Break the bread into large chunks.
  3. Spray your saute pan with some cooking spray, crumble in the Italian Sausage and cook until nicely caramelized.
  4. Remove the cooked sausage to drain on paper towel, set aside in the fridge but leave sausage grease and bits in pan.
  5. Add your diced onions to the sausage fat, add about a tablespoon or more of olive oil and cook until caramelized, remove and drain on paper towel.
  6. Beat the eggs, milk, melted butter, salt, pepper and mustard in a large bowl.
  7. Fold in the shredded cheese and the cottage cheese. *(I will also usually add any slices or parts of packages of shredded cheese I have as well just to get rid of my odds and ends!)
  8. Next fold in the sausage and caramelized onions and gently blend all the ingredients until well incorporated.
  9. Pour, scoop or spoon into your greased baking dish.
  10. Cover your dish with plastic wrap and set in the fridge to soak a minimum of four hours, best overnight.
  11. To Bake, preheat oven to 350°F then bake your Strata for 50 minutes to one hour or until a knife tip comes out mostly clean.
Serve this up with a lovely fresh Spring greens salad with a honey mustard dressing (which I also use as a dipping sauce for the strata) and one of my yummy Champagne Martinis!
 

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20120804

PEPPERED ORANGE POT DE CREME AU CHOCOLAT - Sin a Little!

POT AU CHOCOLAT
(Pot de Creme au Chocolat)
with Chocolate Covered Mandarin Oranges,
Orange Zest, Fleur de Sel & Pink and Black Pepper

I absolutely crave a nice Pot au Chocolat every once in a while. It's like a gourmet pudding on chocolate crack!  It's so rich, thick, creamy and decadent that you can actually feel your halo floating away from you as you indulge in the sinfulness of each spoonful.
Pot au Chocolate is not hard to make but I have an even easier recipe for whipping one up that, frankly, I use most of the time!  It requires only a few tools and ingredients and just a few minutes to make - though you will need a few hours (at least 4) for it to properly set up.
 
I often take my basic Pot de Creme au Chocolat recipe and doll it up depending on my mood of the moment. Sometimes I add a little espresso, salted caramel, sometimes a bit of booze, maybe a few candied nuts - whatever happens to strike my taste fancy of the moment.
Last night I wanted orange infused chocolate so here is what I came up with:
 
Recipe for The Diva of Tiny Foods
PEPPERED ORANGE POT DE CREME AU CHOCOLAT
 
INGREDIENTS:
1/2 Tsp. Orange Zest
6 Oz. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips or Pieces
3/4 Cup of Half & Half
One Egg
1/8 Tsp. Fleur de Sel
Pinch of Pink Peppercorns, Ground
Pinch of Black Peppercorns, Ground
1 Tbsp. Sugar*

GARNISH
6 Mandarin Orange Slices, Drained and Dried
1/3 Cup of Dark Chocolate Chips or Pieces
Whipped Cream
Dusting of Black Pepper & Fleur de Sel
TOOLS:
Measuring Cups & Spoons
Blender
Small Microwavable Glass
Small Microwaveable Cup
Microwave
2 Custard Cups
 
DIRECTIONS:
1. Put the 6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips, the egg, the orange zest, the 1/8 Tsp. of Fleur de Sel and the two pinches of the peppers into your blender. If you want it sweet you may also add the sugar here. I do not use the sugar as I prefer the slight bitterness of the semi-sweet chocolate.
2. Heat your half & half in the microwave to scalding. This is about 2 - 3 minutes depending on the power of your microwave. You do not want the cream to boil but you want it steaming.
3. Turn your blender on to grind and slowly (through the hole, do not remove the lid) pour in the hot milk. Once the milk is all in, bring the blender up to puree.
4. Mix until the chips are completely melted in and the mixture is smooth, mine takes about 2 minutes or less.
5. Pour into your custard cups and place in the refrigerator to set up for a minimum of 4 hours.
6. Prepare your chocolate covered mandarin slices by melting the 1/4 cup of dark chocolate chips/pieces in a small cup then dipping in half the mandarin slice. Place on waxed paper and refrigerate until serving time.
7. At serving time top your Peppered Orange Pot au Chocolat off with some nice whipped cream, place your chocolate covered mandarin slices on top then dust the whole dish with a bit more of the peppers and the salt and serve!

This recipe makes 2 really full custard cups of yummy chocolate sinfulness, with a little extra left over.  (I poured the extra into a shot glass and had a little "sneak" taste after an hour.) You can also fill 4 espresso cups with this recipe which is a perfect serving for after a meal as it's very rich!

This is a really easy and impressive dessert to serve your guests and it takes you only a few minutes to create!  Try it out and let me know about some of your versions!

"God gave the angels wings, and he gave humans chocolate." ~ Author Unknown

 

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