Monday, January 17, 2011

Strata and Celebrants

I love that word, celebrants. It’s so much more … celebratory than officiants. It says the right kinds of things for me about the ritual we’re going to take part in. Celebrants. Celebrate. Cele-HUH!

Yesterday, Phil and I held a cele-brunch. (Sorry) (Not really) We invited the four dear friends we’ve asked to officiate our marriage for Strata and Serious Discussion. Sadly, one of them got sick and couldn’t make it, but with three of four, plus a hungry little ring bearer, we charged bravely onward into the unknown. It was a difficult but a lovely start.

We had a general idea of how we wanted things to go. Ideally, we’d all start talking about our thoughts on Marriage and Weddings and Family and then move into the specifics of what to include in the ceremony. But things like that are hard to dive right into, and I felt awkward forcing the discussion. Luckily, our dear friends are thoughtful people and always game, and we came away with some wonderful thoughts and a feeling that we had chosen well.

One thing I found difficult is that we didn’t know who should be in charge and open or lead the discussion. Us or them? They know more about marriage, having engaged in the practice for several years, but we’re the ones asking them to do this thing and marshaling the troops, so to speak.

That question was not ultimately decided, but it became unimportant and worked out, as these things do, if a bit haltingly. After a bit of initial hesitation, our friends shared ideas and opinions and lessons they’d learned. Phil and I shared our still-solidifying thoughts. We talked about choice, and convenience, and hard work. We talked about community and romance and tiger mothers (of course). We talked about the difficulties of families.

We didn’t get to the detail stage, as the impatient controlling planner in me had hoped, but I feel good about where we are. I am also pretty sure that the strata made everything easier, delicious as it was. (How’s that for a shitty transition)

It’s a do-it-before, throw-in-whatever kind of dish that makes hanging out with your guests, drinking coffee and mimosas, so much easier.

Phil and I took an hour or two on Saturday evening to work together in the kitchen constructing breakfast. How appropriate are we? And how astonished and happy was I that we did not fight as we are wont when cooking together?

We did a loose take on the strata recipe in the Bon Appetit Cookbook – the big orange one from a couple of years ago. It was the simplest thing, and all the ingredients came together beautifully into a lovely, savory, puddingy delight. Just what I hope for my marriage. :D

Sausage Mushroom Strata

Cut the crusts off a 1-lb loaf of levain and cut into cubes. Worry that you don’t have enough bread, take a few slices of wheat sandwich bread out of the fridge and do the same to those. Stick them in a bowl in a 200 degree oven to dry out a bit while you do the rest. Stir maybe twice.

Brown some sausage. We used a mix of spicy Italian and country pork, about 4 patties worth; the latter had a nice maple flavor. Once brown, scoop out the sausage with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Toss some sliced mushrooms into the hot grease and let them get all cooked down and a bit brown. Drain those on top of the sausage.

Meanwhile, you should be caramelizing your onion/onion-and-a-half—sliced thin and placed in a pan over very low heat with a little knob of butter and a sprinkling of salt.  Cover and let it go forever, and then remove the lid and turn up the heat to let the caramelization get going.

In a LARGE bowl, mix 8 or 9 eggs, 3 ½ cups milk, a bit of thyme, some salt and pepper, a good handful of grated parmesan and a handful of shredded gruyere. Then mix in all of your other delicious stuff: sausage, mushrooms, onions. Then add the bread. We were able to mix in most of the bread, but a few cubes had to go directly into the pans, which we had previously buttered. We don’t have a 9x13 dish, so we used two 8x8’s, which worked very well. Pour the mixture in the pan(s) and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

The next morning (or later), preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and pop the strata in there for 45 minutes. Take the loveliness out and sprinkle more cheese on top of your strata: a good chunk of goat cheese, crumbled, a handful more of shredded gruyere, and a handful of shredded mozzarella. Bake it for 5 or so minutes more, until the cheese gets melty. Pull it out and let it sit for five minutes before you serve.

We added tiny roast potatoes, a simple green salad with citrus vinaigrette, and honeydew to round out our celebrant-ory meal.

1 comment:

  1. I can confirm that said brunch was extremely tasty.