Unsure of whether Dylan would be on call in the County hospital’s trauma surgery unit, this year’s Thanksgiving ended up being something of a last minute deal. Doing your shopping the night before can be a little risky- will the turkey defrost in time? Will there even be any turkeys left? Dylan’s parents, wanting to be prepared for any eventuality, bought four chickens (just in case) as well as the frozen turkey. Were we feeding a crew of dozens? No, there were only five of us at the table and forty pounds of meat. I kid you not.
Of course, as someone who has spent most of her life as a vegetarian or something close to it, I can’t get terribly excited about that much fowl. I don’t eat turkey and will only consume chicken in small quantities, which makes me perhaps not the ideal Thanksgiving guest. But you know what? What I don’t eat in meat I make up for in sides. Although Thanksgiving was not a holiday designed with vegetarians in mind, I’ll never go hungry with the mashed potatoes, yams, and other carbohydrate-laden accoutrements.
As soon as I saw the Thanksgiving edition of the New York Times food section a couple of weeks ago, I knew this corn bread and broccoli rabe strata was going to be my big contribution. Had it not been part of Melissa Clark’s Thanksgiving feature on vegetarian dishes that would be equally pleasing to vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, I probably wouldn’t have thought to put this on a Thanksgiving menu. Though it is corn bread-based, the rest of it is decidedly untraditional- nary a yam, potato, or brussels sprout in sight. Instead, there’s a spicy mix of broccoli rabe and roasted red pepper topped with a gurgling, golden layer of Gruyere and ricotta. Yum!
Dylan pointed out that it was very much like a savory bread pudding made with cornbread. Given that it’s rich and a little eggy, it could certainly stand on its own as an entree or even work on a brunch menu. You can use store-bought corn bread, or with just a little bit of effort, make your own. A first-time cornbread baker myself, I tried the recipe from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food. I can’t say I loved the recipe on its own- it was on the blander side, though the texture was lovely- but it really came to life when incorporated into the strata. This dish was definitely a winner on our Thanksgiving table and you can bet we won’t wait until next turkey day before making it again.
This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Truffle from What’s On My Plate. Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving!
Corn bread and broccoli rabe strata (serves 8-10 as a main dish, 16 as a side)
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for pan
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound broccoli rabe, outer leaves and thick stems removed; florets and tender stems coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1/4 cup chopped roasted red pepper
1/4 cup chopped pitted calamata olives
8 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups half-and-half or whole milk
1/4 teaspoon 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 Gruyère cheese (1 1/2 cups)
1. 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 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup water. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until broccoli rabe is very tender, about 3 minutes longer. (If mixture looks watery when rabe is done, let simmer uncovered for a minute to dry it out.) Transfer to a bowl and stir in roasted pepper and olives.
2. Make a custard by whisking together eggs, half-and-half or milk, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the black pepper.
3. Spread corn-bread cubes in prepared dish. Scatter vegetable mixture over corn bread. Dot with dollops of ricotta. Pour custard evenly over corn bread. Sprinkle with Gruyère. Cover baking dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
4. When ready to bake strata, remove it from refrigerator and let rest at room temperature while oven preheats to 350 degrees. Bake until firm and golden on top, about 45 to 55 minutes. Cool at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve hot or warm.