Friday, January 10, 2014

Ham & Cheese Strata Muffins


Last week we had a bit of a blizzard here in New York, and now we are experiencing what the weather man is calling a “polar vortex.” I always thought “winter blast” sounded pretty dramatic, but this time they added a whole new level of crazy. I don’t care what they call it, it all translates to “it’s extremely freakin’ cold outside,” which means that I’m trying to say inside as much as possible.

The snow we get around here isn't often all that debilitating, although all the buildup beforehand could make you assume the opposite. There is always a huge crowd at the supermarket preparing for the apocalypse. You know the snow storm check list: milk, bread, eggs. It’s all the basics you need to stay alive if you’re snowed in for a few days, but it’s also everything you need to make a great brunch. So even if the roads are clear by lunch time, you won’t need to leave the house for a good meal.

We all know the brunch standards like omelets, quiche, and French toast. Strata is a little of all of those things in one. A mixture of bread with milk, eggs, and other fun stuff, strata is like breakfast stuffing or bread pudding. Since I had cold cuts on hand for this snow storm (thanks, dad), I made my strata with ham and cheese with some sautéed shallots and honey mustard sauce as a nod to one of my favorite sandwiches.

A strata is typically served as a casserole; I like the muffin size because it lets everyone have their own personal serving (or two), plus makes it easier to save and reheat for leftovers. Serve with a salad on the side or alongside an entire brunch feast. Cooking with foods you already have on hand is perfect for snow days—or days that you are just too cozy inside to be bothered going out into a polar vortex.

Yield: 12 Muffins
-  1-2 teaspoons vegetable oil
-  ½ shallot, sliced
-  1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
-  2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
-  2 tablespoons honey
-  1 loaf Italian/French bread, diced
-  ½ cup sliced deli ham, diced
-  ½ cup sliced Swiss cheese, diced
-  2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
-  1 Cup milk
-  8 eggs, whisked
-  Salt and pepper to taste
1) Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray. Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft and translucent. In a small bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, mustard, and honey until well combined.
2) In a large bowl, toss the bread with the cooked shallots, ham, Swiss cheese, and melted butter. Add the honey mustard mixture, milk, eggs, salt and pepper, and mix until well combined. Fill the muffin cups with the bread mixture.
3) Bake for 45-50 minutes until the bread is toasted and the egg is completely set. Let cool slightly. Use a knife to loosen the edges of each muffin, before carefully removing each from the pan.

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