Recipe of the Week

Main Ingredient - Eggs
Created by Elizabeth Karmel
Created by Elizabeth Karmel

Casseroles are a funny thing. You aren’t likely to see them lauded as the hot new food trend any time soon. Yet make a great one, and suddenly folks clamor for the recipe.

My favorite casserole is one that typically is served for breakfast or brunch. It’s called an egg strata, and I love it because it’s easy to prep ahead of time, and bakes up light and fluffy, and yet is substantial and satisfying.

The other thing that I love about a strata is that you can tailor it to include your favorite flavors, as well as make it sweet or savory. Strata is the plural of stratum, which literally means layers, and you can layer all your favorite ingredients in with the bread and egg custard.

I grew up with the classic cheddar cheese, breakfast sausage egg strata. When I moved to Chicago, I began to experiment with different fillings. I fell in love with this city’s Greek omelet, which is a signature of its ubiquitous diners. I adapted those flavors to create a spinach, feta, onion and tomato strata. Another favorite is wild mushrooms, leeks and brie cheese.

When I am cooking brunch for a lot of people, I like to make two strata — one sweet, another savory.

There are simpler strata recipes available, but I still love the original I grew up with. It uses more eggs and a mixture of milk and half-and-half for a richer, more quiche-like custard. I don’t use as much bread as many recipes because I like it to literally melt into the other ingredients. This produces a lighter, puffier strata. I do add a bit more bread to my sweet French toast version because I want a breadier result for that version.

Letting the strata rest before baking allows the bread to become saturated by the egg mixture, as well as the other flavors.

I like to let it rest overnight. Not only does this produce the creamiest result, it also saves me any trouble in the morning. I just uncover it and pop it in the oven. But if you prefer to make it the day of, plan to let it rest for at least an hour in the refrigerator.

recipe image
Created by Elizabeth Karmel
Created by Elizabeth Karmel

Debbie Moose says "Growing up as a Southerner, pimento cheese was my peanut butter - the satisfying food that we always had in the house for when the hungries struck. This may be my ultimate comfort food deviled egg, combining two of my favorite goodies in one."

Created by Elizabeth Karmel

     Whenever I think about summer, I think about deviled eggs. Beginning with Easter and going straight through the month of September; every activity is enhanced by a plate of deviled eggs—think camping, cook-outs and beach vacations.

     Deviled eggs fit in everywhere, for any occasion. You just have to change the garnish to match the activity or your mood. If I am feeling down-home, I add a little pimento cheese to my deviled egg mixture. If I want to spice it up, I add pureed chipotle and substitute lime for the lemon. I also love getting a little fancy and topping deviled eggs with caviar—either the traditional—my favorite is ossetra caviar—or the newer wasabi-infused flying fish roe.

     No matter how good embellished deviled eggs are, my favorite version is my recipe that I call “Straight-Up Deviled Eggs,” because they are classic and well, straight up!   You can use them as a base for any and all flavor mix-ins or serve them like I do, straight up; simple and sublime.

     Party eggs as I call them, are very portable with the availability of many deviled egg carriers with tops and some even have bottom levels for ice which make them a good choice—and food safe—for even the hottest summer days and nights.

     There are a few tricks to making perfect deviled eggs. First, you have to make the eggs. I have been boiling eggs since I can remember, but you would be surprised how many folks don’t know how to boil eggs and how many different methods there are for doing so.

     The best method is to fill your heavy-duty saucepan with cold water. Gently, place the raw eggs in the cold water, bring the water to a boil, and as soon as the water is boiling, turn off the heat, put a lid on the pan and wait about 15 minutes for hard-cooked. If you are eating them for breakfast and want them soft or runny, cook for less time.

     This way of cooking eggs is really more like poaching than boiling and will guarantee a yellow, creamy well-cooked egg. The harder and hotter you cook the eggs, the greener the yolk will be. You also want to plunge the eggs in cold water as soon as you think they are done so that they don’t over-cook. This is less an issue for deviled eggs.

     I like to make the deviled mixture while the eggs are still warm so that the flavor ingredients get fully incorporated in the yolk. I am a fan of cutting the eggs in half vertically because I think it is easier to keep all the goodness of the deviled egg mixture in the white. However, for esthetic purposes, you should follow the shape of your deviled egg tray.

     The eggs taste better after the mixture has had a chance to sit and all the flavors marry. For that reason, I always make my deviled eggs the day before and refrigerate the mixture in a closed pastry bag. I pipe the filling into the whites just before I serve the deviled eggs or need to leave my house. A light hand with the garnish and you are done.

Created by Elizabeth Karmel

hi elizabeth3
a food fanatic and the Grill Girl from North Carolina who has seasoned, basted and tasted my way across the country. Please join me on my non-stop, culinary journey...


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