Christmas went without a hitch this year. No disasters to speak of, I’m sorry to report. St. Nick managed to cram himself down our tiny chimney right on schedule to deliver the goods to the children. He took some liberties with the fudge, I noticed, making short work of what we left for him on the mantle and then dipping into my secret stash in the refrigerator (he really is always watching, isn’t he?). You can imagine my reaction when I found the empty pans strewn about in the snow, reindeer footprints all around. I’m willing to let it slide, however, in the spirit of Christmas.
Husband and I kept our gifts to each other to a minimum. We didn’t want to end up in a Gift of the Magi-type situation wherein I relinquish my most precious asset, my gorgeous, flowing hair, only to find out that the measly ¾-inch growth I've accumulated will barely get you enough loose change to buy one and a half fishing lures to replace the dozens that have gotten caught in various trees over the years, not by Husband. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, he would have pawned off his fishing pole to buy me a truckload of barrettes or whatever you call those things that keep your hair out of your eyes. To which I would respond, in language befitting an O. Henry character, “WTF? You know I’m physically incapable of accessorizing.”
My in-laws came over Christmas morning bearing Hole-in-One doughnuts and other goodies. I didn’t knock myself out too much with the meal this year. Just a laid-back brunch with bacon from Chestnut Farms, fresh fruit, and a goat cheese-artichoke strata. Oh, and grapefruit mimosas, but that’s for another post. No spiral hams taking forever to cook or ducks to be trussed or husbands to make vomit. Nope, just a casserole made the night before and shoved into the oven amidst a flurry of wrapping paper (made only slightly more challenging by hastily deployed Lego minefields everywhere). Later on, once food coma set in and everyone cleared out, I took a three-and-a-half-hour nap. That was my Christmas present to myself. I thought baby Jesus would approve.
And that, my friends, was Christmas. How about you?
Goat Cheese-Artichoke Strata
This one’s for my mother-in-law. It’s a good use of leftover cheese from the cheese plate you might have served on Christmas Eve.
1 1-lb. loaf sourdough bread, crusts removed if thick
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
18 oz. marinated artichoke hearts, drained, 3 Tbsp. or marinade reserved
2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
¾ lb. goat cheese, crumbled
¾ lb. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
8 large eggs
2½ cups half-and-half or milk
1 tsp. salt
¾ tsp. black pepper
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a deep 9- to 10-inch baking dish.
Cut bread into 1-inch cubes. Transfer cubes to a baking sheet, along with cloves of garlic, and toast for about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice, until bread is golden brown and lightly crisp. (Or you could use stale bread and toast the garlic separately.) Peel the garlic, smash the cloves, and add to a medium bowl. Slice the artichoke hearts about ½-inch thick and add to the bowl. Mix in the thyme.
In the baking dish, arrange half of the bread, artichoke mixture, and cheeses, then finish with another layer of each. Whisk the eggs with the half-and-half, salt, pepper, and reserved artichoke marinade. Pour custard over the strata. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. In my case, I did this Christmas Eve so I could just pop it in the oven Christmas morning.
Remove the strata from the fridge a half hour before you plan to bake it. Preheat oven to 350°F. Drizzle olive oil over strata and bake for 50-55 minutes, until golden brown, puffed, and lightly set in the center. Serve hot.
Source: Adapted from A Real American Breakfast by the Jamisons.