When I was little, some of my favorite meals were breakfast for dinner. If there wasn’t time to grocery shop, Mom or Dad would get the biggest skillet in the kitchen and fry up bacon or sausage links (which we never seemed to run out of), followed by eggs and fresh tomato slices. The meal was finished with warm, buttered English muffins and slices of whatever fruit we had in the house.
Often eggs for dinner were presented unceremoniously on paper plates to minimize cleanup, and one of us would usually end up leaving the table to eat in front of the TV. But it was always delicious–with each item tasting a little like everything else since they’d all spent time in that same, glorious skillet. I would happily chomp on bacon and juicy, charred tomato, dragging my English muffin through the egg yolk just like my dad, and reveling in the slightly naughty feeling of cheating on dinner.
To this day, I love eating eggs and toast for dinner. But I thought I’d spruce it up it up this time by making a strata with crispy pancetta, hunks of cubed bread, ribbons of fresh spinach and nutty Gruyere. I served it on the nice plates because, hey, breakfast for dinner should be celebrated!
Spinach and Gruyere strata
If you’re not an eggs-at-night type, this meal would also make a lovely centerpiece dish for brunch.
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, diced in 1/4-inch cubes
2 large shallots, minced
1/4 cup milk
8 large eggs
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 thick slices Italian bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 packed cups sliced fresh spinach
Butter or nonstick cooking spray, for greasing the pan
2 tablespoons chopped chives, for garnish
Method: Preheat the oven to 400F. Heat a skillet over medium heat, and add the olive oil and pancetta. Cook until the pancetta is golden brown and has rendered most of its fat. Remove it, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the shallot to the same skillet, and cook over medium until soft and slightly translucent, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Add the reserved pancetta and shallots and whisk to combine. Fold in the cubed bread and fresh spinach until combined. Let stand for a few minutes so the bread can soak up some of the egg. Note: Don’t worry if the egg-to-everything-else ratio looks a little meager–the eggs will puff up nicely in the oven.
Dump the egg mixture into a greased, 8-inch by 8-inch casserole dish, smoothing out the top a bit. Bake for about 35 minutes, until the center has completely set.
Allow the strata to cool on the counter for at least 20 minutes before slicing into four equal pieces. Before serving, sprinkle with chopped chives. Serves 3-4.