Breakaway Cook

Fantastic Breakfast: The Savory Sourdough Strata

sourdough savory strat625a

I suspect I’m not alone in my breakfast rut: we have a decent rotation of morning dishes — killer oatmeal (made with persimmon goop this time of year), homemade granola over Greek yogurt and fresh fruit, poached eggs, fluffy herby eggs, baked eggs, orange yogurt pancakes, Dutch babies, and a few more — but I often find myself pining for something new.

So I was cruising around the web, hoping to find something good to make on Christmas morning, and happened upon something I had never heard of called “strata”: a casserole dish layered with aromatics and bread. The idea is to alternate layers of bread and veggies and to pour an eggy custard over them, refrigerate overnight, and bake in the morning. I don’t normally do much overnighting of anything, but I figured what the hell, I wanted out of my rut.  You do have to have a modicum of energy at night to assemble it, but it only takes 10 minutes or so to prepare, and you’ll be glad you did in the morning: you just have to turn on the oven, take it out of the fridge, and plop it in the oven.  It’s especially great as a stress-free way to serve a hearty breakfast to guests, along with a bowl of fresh seasonal fruit (it’s fantastic with fuyu persimmons).

I naturally wanted to up the overall savoriness of the dish, so I added my umami standbys of pulverized dried tomato, shiitake dust, and parmesan. All the recipes I’ve seen use milk, but I think it’s better with yogurt. I think it tastes better in a claypot, too. Here’s how I did it:

  • 3 cups cubed sourdough bread
  • 1 cup finely grated parmesan
  • ¼ cup minced shallots
  • 1 cup diced crimini (or other) mushrooms
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon pulverized dried tomato
  • generous sprinkling of salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon shiitake powder

1) Place half the bread into a large claypot or other earthen vessel, or casserole dish that’s been lightly buttered. Sprinkle in half the parmesan, half the shallots, and half the mushrooms. Follow with the rest of the bread, parm, shallots, and mushrooms (this creates the “strata”).

2) Whisk together eggs, yogurt, salt, and pepper, and pour this over the strata. Top it with the shiitake powder. Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator overnight.

3) In the morning, preheat oven to 325. Bake for 30 minutes, then crank up the heat to 425 for another 10 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned and crusty. Serve in the claypot, at the table, with some fruit.

Has anyone ever made a strata before? Does anyone have any can’t-live-without breakfasts you’d like to share?

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Happy Holidays, Breakaway Cooks!

daphne on bed625

Christmas this year is oddly peaceful for us — having a newborn means you don’t have to do *anything*! No one expects any meals or much socializing … it’s pretty much Daphneluv, 24/7!

So a quick note of thanks to this cool community we have here. It’s a pure pleasure for me to write this blog, and I look forward to another year of good cooking with you all. Next year should be a banner one, I hope: we’ll roll out the video series, and I hope to have the Breakaway Vegetarian Cook ready by late spring/early summer. As many of you know, it’s going to be a digital book, complete with video sections, lots of great photography, and deep links to writing I’ve done over the years. We’re also rolling out a facelift for the entire website, including a new section we’re calling “gifts and gear” — a webstore with all kinds of products I’m enamored with and use on a near-daily basis. And, most importantly….. we’ll be documenting Daphne’s growth into hypercuteness! I can’t wait till I can start feeding her solid food………..

Happy holidays!

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Umeboshi Duck With Persimmon

umeboshi duck with persimmon625.


I think duck legs have to be one of the greatest bargains around. Eight bucks or so will buy you four delectable pieces of ducky heaven that keep on giving: you can render some of the fat for later use (potatoes fried in duck fat are one of life’s truly great pleasures), you get four wonderful entrees, and you can make a meaty, smoky stock with the bones. My method: place them in a large claypot or other earthen vessel and gently roast in a low-heat (275) oven for about 30 minutes, to render the fat. Pour it off into a clean jar for later use — you should get quite a bit (at least a small jam jar’s worth).

Heavily season with salt and pepper, put them back in the oven, and turn up the heat to 350, where they will roast for another 30 to 40 minutes. Check to see how brown they are; they may need a little more time. They should look pretty well done, with some visible separation of meat and bone. And finally, crank it way up to 45o for as long as it takes (typically 10 to 15 minutes) to get the skin supercrisp and well-browned, near black. During this last stage, pit and finely chop a few umeboshi, and smear it on the duck when it’s finally done. The piquancy of the umeboshi played against the superrich fat of the duck is one of the world’s greatest combos.

I thought about serving the legs with rice, but then, the giant pile of fuyu persimmon caught my eye: what if I just chopped up the persimmon in lieu of the rice? Some of the fat from the duck would drizzle down into the fruit, making the perfect dressing! It was lovely, served with some pickled fennel,  superkraut, and avocado.

Does anyone else cook duck legs? If so, how?

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buddhas hand zest625


Our sweet neighbor Julia welcomed Daphne into the world with a gorgeous Buddha’s hand citron. My interpretation of this generous event is thus: make a delicious limoncello-like Italian cordial with it and propose a bottleful of toasts! This is my first foray into citruscello land, but I have it on good faith that it couldn’t be simpler: zest about a quarter-cup of zest from citrus of choice, let it steep in good-quality vodka for two weeks, then add sweetener of choice, along with some water, and freeze.  If I like the buddhacello results, it won’t be long till kaffiracello, yuzucello, et cetera! I almost never drink hard booze — wine with meals and beer on a hot day keep my liver with plenty to do — but this is more like a tiny hit of boozy dessert than a slam ’em shot of something hard … besides, they will make cool little xmas gifts in smaller bottles. Will post the results in a month or so.

I’m feeling pretty sleep-deprived these days, so not a lot of adventurous cooking. Hugely grateful to friends who are dropping off bags of both ingredients and cooked food. Even still, I feel there’s always time for a good, proper breakfast, heated-up leftovers for lunch, and simple dinners with lots of greens. Desserts, too, are in high demand. Not my forte or natural inclination, yet I’m enjoying making them — different tapiocas are showing up with regular frequency, so I hope to work up  a post on tapioca experiments soon.


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