Pecan and apple pie aside, if I had to choose just 1 thing to load my plate with on Thanksgiving, it would be the stuffing. I mean, as a carb-aholic what’s not to love? And you can have so much fun with it! Herbs, sausage, nuts, veggies, I can’t wait…
…except this year, I won’t be spending Thanksgiving on American soil. I doubt I’ll have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner unless I figure out a way to cook turkey and stuffing on a 2 burner cooktop in a teeny studio apartment. But I couldn’t let a year go by without experiencing the essence of Thanksgiving so I concocted these stuffing-inspired egg strata muffins. They’re made with sausage, sautéed fennel and onions, Gruyère, and toasted bread, soaked overnight in a rich egg custard. They walk a thin line between strata, savory bread pudding, and something Matt refers to as “cowboy breakfast” and the rest of us simply call “egg bake”. And for me, they taste exactly like everything good about the holidays, wrapped up into 1 neat little package.
So, of course, it tastes good, but here’s the other reason everyone loves strata: it’s assembled the night before you serve it, which means you get to brunch without busting out a mess of bowls and pans first thing in the morning. And if that’s not good enough, these mini stratas bake in half the time of a big strata.
Let’s do this! We’re going to need a loaf of Italian bread, an onion, fennel, sausage, and cheese. I used a very tasty pork sausage with apples, walnuts, and rosemary. A nice fennel sausage would have been just as good. Gruyère was my choice of cheese, but any flavorful melter will do.
Cut the bread into cubes and pop them in the oven to toast while you brown sausage and sauté onions and fennel.
Toss the toasted bread with the sausage and sautéed vegetables in a large bowl. Whisk together eggs, milk, and cream to make an eggy custard in another bowl. Grate the cheese and butter a muffin tin.
Pack the bread mixture into the muffin cups and pour the custard into each cup. I do it like this rather than mixing the 2 in a bowl before packing the cups so there’s more variety in texture. The tops will absorb less custard and be crispy and crouton-y, the bottoms will be tender and eggy.
Sprinkle each muffin with the grated cheese, cover with plastic, and refrigerate overnight. All that’s left to do is bake and eat.
Get a good night’s sleep, roll out of bed, and pop your mini stratas in the oven. Stay in your jammies, sip your coffee, and read the newspaper: this is brunch done right and the flavors of Thanksgiving whenever you want them.
- 6 c. ½ in. cubes of Bread (I used about ½ of a large boule)
- 1 Tbsp. Butter, plus additional soft butter for the pan
- 1 large Onion, thinly sliced
- ½ of a Fennel Bulb, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp. minced Rosemary
- ½ # Sausage (I used pork sausage from a local butcher made with rosemary, apples, and walnuts…yum! A sweet fennel seed sausage would also work well)
- 5 Eggs
- ½ c. Heavy Cream
- 1 c. Whole Milk
- 2 tsp. Dijon Mustard
- a few gratings of Nutmeg
- ¼ # Gruyère, grated (1 heaping c.)
- Preheat oven to 350°. Spread the cubed bread on a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes, stirring the bread around halfway through.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and fennel with a pinch of salt and sauté until wilted and golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in the rosemary and a few twists of black pepper.
- In a separate sauté pan, brown the sausage over medium heat, 8-10 minutes, breaking the sausage into small pieces. If there is a lot of fat in the pan, drain the sausage on paper towels before proceeding.
- In a large bowl, combine the toasted bread, sautéed onions and fennel, and the browned sausage. Generously butter a muffin tin and pack each cup with the bread mixture.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, milk, mustard, nutmeg, ½ tsp. kosher salt, and ¼ tsp. black pepper. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the muffin cups. Top with the grated cheese, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
- The next morning, preheat oven to 350°. Bake the stratas until the egg has set, the cheese has melted, and the tops are golden and crispy around the edges, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes (it makes it easier to get each strata out in 1 piece!) and serve.