On Cast Iron and Strata
November 16, 2008
I’m bone tired right now, but in the best possible way. It was a jam-packed weekend that included about 18 hours in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and also a very, very busy day back here in Chicago today. But this is the kind of exhausted that I love: I had people to see, things to do—and see and do I did. And, of course, I cooked too.
Our visit to Ann Arbor was tightly edited (we were visiting Kevin’s sister, who’s a surgery resident, and we wedged our stay between her shifts): in less than a day, we caught the football game, which is truly the show in town (but, sorry Ms. Arbor: Go Cats!); sampled beers at two breweries; ate a great dinner; took a spin around campus; talked politics and celebrity gossip and music and wine and food; and skipped down memory lane. Oh, and I managed to ferret out the best kitchen store in town.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)
And the kitchen store is where I picked up the cast iron pan pictured in this post. It’s something I’ve had on my wish list for a long time. I have a Lodge griddle, so the skillet had seemed superfluous. But after cursing my cast iron deficiency one too many times while scanning recipes that demanded not just a broad cast iron surface, but deep sides too, I finally took the plunge during a post-beer trip to Ann Arbor’s kitchen store. (Needless to say, the cast iron was not all I came away with; lesson learned: tipsy shopping is not a good idea.)
When we got home this morning, after lugging our overnight bags and kitchen store haul up the four flights to our apartment, I grabbed my new skillet, proceeded directly to the kitchen and whipped up this strata. Do you know about stratas? They’re in the same family as frittatas, just swap chunks of rustic bread in for the potatoes. And they make a perfect one (cast iron!) skillet breakfast.
I particularly like this version of the strata. For one thing, I’m almost sure to have all the ingredients on hand: the nub of a loaf of bread, perilously close to going bad; canned tomatoes; eggs; fresh herbs; onions; garlic and some bits of creamy, salty feta. Also, they’re fun to make. Methods will differ, but this recipe asks you to saute slim half moons of onion and slivers of garlic in some olive oil (in your shiny new cast iron skillet!), along with some sage and red pepper flakes. Next, add the canned tomatoes, right along with their juices. Stir in the cubed bread, which will start to soak up the flavorful sauce. Over that, you’ll pour four eggs, beaten into frothiness with a generous dallop of yogurt. Dot with feta and bake until it’s puffed and golden. To finish it off, shred some parmesan on top, fire up the broiler and pass the skillet briefly beneath the flame. Cut yourself a wedge and enjoy (while coveting your favorite new kitchen implement).
Food & Wine
4 large eggs
1/2 cup low-fat yogurt
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped sage
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
One 16-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juices
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 ounces whole wheat peasant bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (4 cups)
2 ounces feta cheese, crumble
Preheat the oven to 450°. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the yogurt and parsley.
In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, sage and crushed red pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the onion is softened and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Stir in the bread and sprinkle with the feta. Pour the egg mixture on top and bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool slightly, then serve.