Recipe of the Week: Corn Bread and Broccoli Rabe Strata


Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

This is a recipe that is going to become part my repertoire. If you are looking for a great side dish for Thanksgiving, or maybe an antidote to turkey for the Friday after this is a good choice. It is also a good choice if you are just having some friends around for a casual dinner.

The entire thing is made in advance and has to sit and rest for at least 4 hours and up to one day. Take half an hour in the morning to make it and get on with the rest of your day. Toss it in the oven an hour and a quarter before you plan to eat, add a green salad then sit back and bask in the compliments. That's it. The best part about serving this is when your guests arrive you can sit down and have a drink and a chat with them rather than racing around the kitchen at the last minute. And isn't that why we have dinner parties in the first place?I am sure that the corn bread for this recipe is supposed to be a southern corn meal style bread, but that isn't easy to find around here. I live in a Portuguese neighbourhood and the corn bread is dense and heavy, so that's what I used and it was still delicious. Next time, I'll bake some corn bread first to give it a try, but in a way that defeats the simplicity of this recipe.

My husband and I both love broccoli rabe (also called rapini), but it's slight bitterness isn't for everyone. You could easily substitute spinach, chard or kale, just adjust initial cooking time. This recipe suggests that you add water when cooking the broccoli rabe, but I prefer to wash it and add it to the pan with the water still clinging to it. That way you it will cook without becoming soggy.

Corn Bread and Broccoli Rabe Strata

1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, more for the pan
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound broccoli rabe, outer leaves and thick stems removed; florets and tender stems coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup chopped roasted red pepper
1/4 cup chopped pitted calamata olives
8 large eggs
4 cups half and half or whole milk
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 pounds homemade or purchased corn bread, cut into 2 inch cubes (about 8 cups)
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
6 ounces grated Gruyere cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)

1. Lightly oil a 9 by 13 inch baking dish. In a large skillet, heat remaining oil over medium heat; add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broccoli rabe and increase heat to medium high. Cook stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 cup water (if using). Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook until broccoli rabe is very tender, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer to a bowl and stir in roasted pepper and olives.

2. Whisk together eggs, half and half or milk,, remaining 1/2 salt and black pepper.

3. Spread the corn bread cubes in prepared dish. Scatter vegetable mixture over corn bread. Dot with dollops of ricotta. Pour cream mixture evenly over corn bread. Sprinkle with Gruyere. Cover baking dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

4. Remove strata from the refrigerator about half an hour before baking and let it rest at room temperature. Bake at 350 F until firm and golden on top, about 45 to 55 minutes. Cool at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve hot or warm.

Serves 6 as main course, or 10 as side dish.

This recipe is from The New York Times, Wednesday, November 14, 2007

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