Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Chimichurri and Roasted Garlic Mac-n-Cheese

I shared Twisted Mac and Cheese of the Day Base Recipe earlier.  If you are looking for a perfect macaroni casserole style recipe, here's my family favorite. It freezes beautifully. It works perfectly. Every. Single. Time. Just remember the secrets for success ( here ).  

Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing some of my favorite twists on this base that will make your life simple!  

Enters...the Chimichurri!  This is just a twist that will rock your world! I adapted this recipe from  a Bon Appetit Chimichurri Recipe that I loved for beef. 

 If you're not familiar with it...Chimichurri is a sauce that is traditionally used as a marinade for meat in Central and South America. I almost want to call it a vinaigrette based pesto if I over simplify what it is.  I fell in love with it the first time it's flavors were unleashed on my pallet! It really lends a powerful punch of flavor and there are hundreds of variations on the internet.  This one is special because it is what I use for meat, but also for vegetarian dishes like this twisted macaroni.  I simply stir 1 cup of the prepared sauce into the base recipe and top it with roasted garlic.  Suddenly, everyone can't stop eating the pasta!

Here's my recipe for the sauce...

Chef Tess' Chimichurri Sauce

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

2T fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4-5 cloves garlic
1 shallot 
1/2 jalapeno, seeded
1 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dry oregano
1/4 tsp ground cumin

Combine all ingredients in a covered food processor and pulse until smooth.

For the mac-n-cheese, scoop one cup of chimichurri in the base mixture and bake according to the original directions.  Top with roasted garlic, lime, and spices to taste.  We serve it with Sweet and Hot Slow Cooked Pork...

There you go darlings! Fast and easy delicious additions to your freezer meal collection!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Monday, August 22, 2016

Baklava Puff Pastry Cups

Baklava! I can't even say the word "baklava" without wanting to belly dance. My mom, the Mega Mom is a belly dancer (or a least she used to be). She used to go to dance the competitions. I remember my grown brother going once to support her and watch the show. My brother is a professor. He's very reserved.  He takes after my dad.   He called me afterward and said, "I need therapy after that. Seriously. A grown man should never see his grey haired mother belly dance." 

 I, on the other hand, take after my mother in many ways. I think it rocked that she got up there and danced. Reeeeeaaallly rocked! The Mega Mom is strong. She's dramatic and thoughtful. She's a powerful woman warrior!  Whenever I used to go home to visit my mom in Utah, I'd try to get in at least one or two belly dancing classes with her. I loved how they celebrated all the shapes and sizes that women came in to class. There was no body shame connected with belly dancing at the Tribal class whatsoever.  In fact, we actually would spend a few minutes at the beginning of class rubbing our bellies talking about the power of women. I loved it. That of course brings us to the subject of these little bad-boy baklava cups...because your belly size will not have to be an issue of concern if you decide to make these a regular part of your life.  I reserve them for special occasions...but you can always make any given Tuesday a special occasion.  Whip off your shirt and do a few belly dancing moves and nobody will even complain about the dessert. I swear.  Dude. I digress.

Okay. Here's the deal. This Baklava cup is a faster simpler way to have all the flavors of the ever popular and traditional layered baklava, without the work of layering. I've adapted it from a recipe I found for Puff Pastry Baklava  on the Pepperidge Farm website a couple years back.  I use their puff pastry a lot. It is simple to use and the price is reasonable.  The twist is going to be how I make the filling using a golden syrup that tastes similar to a "Sugar Daddy" candy and mix that with sugar, my cinnamon spice blend and just a hint of lavender and rose petal. The honey sauce that I drizzle over the top of the baked pastry is remarkable with just the slightest amount of heat from cayenne and the contrast of creamy vanilla. Serve these cups warm with a scoop of ice cream on top and I promise that everyone will rub their bellies, start talking about how strong and awesome you are...and maybe even start kissing you. I can't promise the kissing part. 

Chef Tess Baklava Puff Pastry Cups
yield 12 cups

1 package frozen Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry 

4 oz. butter
1/2 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup or light molasses
3 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp good Saigon cinnamon
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice 
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp dry culinary lavender

 Additional: 4 oz melted butter to drizzle over baked cups

honey sauce:
1/2 cup honey
2 T lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp dry culinary lavender
1 tsp dry culinary rose petal

Pull the puff pastry from the package and allow to defrost at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes.  Heat the oven to 375°F.  Lightly grease 2 12 cup muffin tins.
Unfold 1 pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface.  Roll the pastry sheet into a 9x12-inch rectangle. With a sharp knife, score the pastry surface to make 12 (about 4-inch) squares.  
form into a cup in the muffin tins.

Heat the butter in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat.  Add the walnuts.  Cook and stir until the walnuts are lightly browned.  Stir in the syrup, sugar and spice. Cook and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Remove the saucepan from the heat.
 Spread 1/4 cup walnut mixture in each of 12 bottom pastry cups.  
Drizzle with the additional butter, about 1/2 Tablespoon per cup. 
Bake at 375 degrees for 17-20 minutes, until golden brown.

To make the honey sauce:
 combine the honey, lemon juice, cayenne, and vanilla.  Drizzle the sauce over the pastries and sprinkle with dry lavender and rose petal.

There you go my darlings! A ridiculously simple and rich dessert sure to please even your most conservative Professors...and ensure that everyone needs therapy.  Thanks Mega Mom! 

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Friday, August 19, 2016

Strawberry Lemonade Italian Almond Pound Cake

I'm sure my faithful followers remember this amazing cake that I shared a couple of years ago.
 It is called Nancy's Almond Pound Cake

The Strawberry Lemonade version occurred during the heat of the summer when the thought of a berry tang-a-licious classic drink started showing up at all the local AZ food establishments. I seriously love lemon and strawberry together, but don't be limited to the one berry option. I'm incandescently  in love with this cake topped with fresh blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries as well. In Wonka-land we have also been know to use Snozzzz-berries (but only on the wallpaper).

Believe me when I tell you that it is every bit as wicked as it appears to be in these pictures...and it's worth every single calorie!  

Chef Tess' Strawberry Lemonade Almond Pound Cake

1 1/2 cups Almond flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour (or gluten-free flour blend)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and sift well.

In a blender combine:
4 eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar
1T fresh lemon zest
1 tsp almond emulsion

Blend about 2 minutes until emulsified and sugar is dissolved. 

Add to blender:
5T melted butter
1/3 cup melted coconut oil

Blend on high for 1 minute more, until fully emulsified. While this is blending make the topping.

2T sugar
1 T fine minced fresh lemon zest
Combine the sugar and lemon zest. Mix together until lemon oil is released.

Lemonade Syrup:
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar

Fresh Strawberries and Strawberry glaze as desired. I use about 1/2 lb of sliced fresh berries per cake and 1 cup of glaze. 

Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir well. Pour into a greased 9 inch cake pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with sugar mixture. Bake 55-60 minutes.  
While cake is baking, combine ingredients for the lemonade syrup in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly. When cake is finished baking, a toothpick inserted into the cake will come out clean. While cake is still hot, pour lemonade syrup over the cake. The syrup will absorb into the cake as it cools. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack about 1 hour. Run a knife around the sides of the cake. Invert on a plate. Remove parchment paper. When cake is cool, arrange fresh strawberry slices over the top of the cake and drizzle with strawberry glaze. Slice and serve in wedges. This cake will remain moist and delicious for several days. 

There you go my darlings! Bake some amazing almond cake!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Crab Rangoon Mac-n-Cheese

One of my favorite Mac-n-cheese recipes that we still serve often at my house, even after leaving the Bistro has been this Crab Rangoon version.  I use the cream cheese crab filling that I use for a delicious crab Rangoon appetizers to complement the salty-nutty semi-spicy macaroni.  I haven't really shared the variations "twists" or the exact recipe that was the base for what we used in the Bistro, but they are not using my recipes anymore for the twisted pasta so I'm not breaking any rules by sharing this twist here on the blog. Even then, it still isn't the exact recipe I used at the restaurant, but it is darn close. 
 I shared Twisted Mac and Cheese of the Day Base Recipe earlier.  If you are looking for a perfect macaroni casserole style recipe, here's my family favorite. It freezes beautifully. It works perfectly. Every. Single. Time. Just remember the secrets for success. 

My Tips for success:

  •  Slightly undercook the pasta.  I generally only cook it about 7 minutes. It will be a little crunchy, but the sauce is a little loose and the noodles will absorb the extra as they bake. This ensures you have a great texture on the pasta, even though it is baked later. 
  • Use subtle spices in the sauce to add depth.  My secret is the mustard, cayanne and a hint of nutmeg. Don't use too much nutmeg or it will taste like pudding. You want it to be subtle, yet enough of a nuance that people beg you for your secret ingredient. I use fresh grated, about 1/16 of a tsp. Just a hint. 
  • Watch the heat when you add the cheese to your sauce. I take my white sauce off the stove, let it cool about 5 minutes, and then add the real cheese. Real cheese in creamy sauces will tend to get a "grainy" texture if it is heated too high, so this step keeps it creamy-luscious.

Chef Tess Make-Ahead Mac-n-cheese
yield: 8 1 cup servings

1 lb elbow macaroni, cooked about 7 minutes (slightly undercooked)
1/2 cup butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup all purpose flour
8 cups milk
1T dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayanne pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 lb Monterrey jack cheese, shredded


  • In a gallon sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the minced garlic and saute about 3 minutes until tender, but not burned. Add the flour and stir well with a whisk, about 4 minutes.  Add the milk and remaining ingredients gradually, while whisking and bring to a boil over medium heat, then simmer about 10 minutes.  Be sure to stir every 2-3 minutes so the milk doesn't burn on the bottom of the pan.  
  • Remove the pan from the heat. Allow it to cool about 5 minutes then stir in the shredded cheese.Smooth perfect cheese sauce can't be done if you cook the cheese on the stove, it will get a grainy texture if the cheese gets too hot...and you want it to be creamy smooth right?
  • In a large 9inch by 13 inch deep casserole pan, lightly grease the pan. Pour the cooked, drained pasta into the pan and season well with salt and pepper.  Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles and stir to combine.  
  • Top with breadcrumbs or twisted variation of your choice (see twisted ideas above). Usually just a drizzle of savory sauce and a different crumble of bacon or cheese on top will kick it to the next level of awesome!  I have so many more flavor variations to make it is sometimes scary how my brain works!

To Bake Immediately:
Bake the casserole at 400 degrees until sauce is bubbling and the topping of choice is crisp, about 20-25 minutes. 

To save for later: Cover casserole with foil and place in the fridge. May be kept up to 5 days. Ready to heat and eat. Bake, covered with foil, 400 degrees 25-30 minutes. Remove foil and allow to bake 10 minutes more, until topping is crisp. 

To make into a freezer meal:  Cover with foil, label and date and transfer to the freezer. 
To prepare: Thaw the casserole in the fridge for 24 hours and follow the directions for the refrigerator version. OR bake from frozen, covered with foil 1 hour 20 minutes. I recommend thawing first. It just gives your sauce a really great texture.  

 Crab Rangoon Version

8 oz chopped crab (fresh or a combination of imitation and real)
8 oz softened cream cheese
1/2 cup minced green onion
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Fold the rangoon mixture into the macaroni casserole before baking.

At service, top with fried wonton wrappers or  fried won-ton salad strips.

There you go! Make some twisted mac-n-cheese tonight.  There will definitely be more versions to follow on the blog soon!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Monday, August 15, 2016

Caramelized Onion Bacon Jam for Grilled Cheese Bliss

Bistro Ham and Swiss with Bacon Jam on Artisan Bread

  In 2011 I posted this insane "delush" recipe here on the blog for Caramelized Onion Shallot Jam with Black Pepper and Shallots and it was an instant classic here at my house and with my catering/personal chef customers! Everyone loved it and I used it for a lot of things!  Adding Bacon and adjusting the seasoning for a savory sweet and smoky combination has been almost too amazing for human understanding. Yet here we are.One of my all time favorite sandwiches is  Ham and Swiss with Bacon Jam grilled to perfection. The sweet and smoky jam is a delightfully tart and savory flavor explosion. It is a fantastic balance combined with the nutty Swiss cheese and the salty-smoky ham.

So...what is the secret to awesome onion jam? It starts with good onions and shallots. I look for shallots to go on sale at the dollar store near my house and sometimes I get lucky.  Add this jam to your list of things that "freeze beautifully". The addition of bacon makes it so it cannot be home canned because of the high fat content, but that has never stopped me from putting it in half-pint jars with 1 inch headspace and popping the jars in the freezer!  The recipe calls for lemon infused olive oil. If you can't find it at your local grocery store, you can add 1T fresh fine minced lemon zest to your jam. This adds a brightness to the flavor profile that will really delight! I've found the addition of the fennel and the black pepper to be what really sets this jam apart from other recipes...in an addictive can't-live-without-it kind of way.

Unlike the first onion jam recipe I did here on the blog, this recipe does not employ the use of sure-jell. The bacon actually helps to absorb the excess moisture and gives you a really thick jam if done correctly.

Tess' Bacon and Onion Balsamic Jam
Yield 6 pints (12 cups)
3 lbs of red onions, minced
3 lbs white or yellow onions, minced
1/2 lb peeled shallots, minced
1 lb bacon crumbles (pre-cooked works great)
1/4 cup lemon infused olive oil
1 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
6 cups sugar
1 cup honey
2T sea salt
1T fennel seed
2T cracked fresh pepper
4 bay leaves

Mince onions and shallots.

In a two gallon pot, caramelize bacon in the olive oil until dark brown. Add the onions and shallots and stir.

Put all the ding-a-dang happy seasonings of joy in the pot with the onions and bacon. Give it a stir and then...talk about bacon and boys. It takes a good 20 minutes of sweating the onions before you add the vinegar.

Sweat. Sweat. Sweat.

Now. once the onions are translucent looking...add the vinegar, sugar, honey and bay leaves. Simmer...

 Simmer 20-30 minutes over low heat.
Transfer to fridge, covered and cooled. It will thicken as it cools.  Transfer to half-pint jars. This will yield 12 jars.

For grilled cheese, spread a generous amount on bread, top with 2-3 slices of cheese and top with bread. Grill in a lightly oiled pan over medium heat until bread is golden brown and cheese is melted.
Serve warm.

There you go darlings! Make something wicked!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Friday, August 12, 2016

Bistro Style Chilled Steak Salad Sandwiches with Creamy Horseradish

As many of you know, I am no longer working as the Executive Chef at the Bistro. I was there for 18 months and I loved it, but it was time to move onward. My kids needed me home more and I had some pressing personal issues that needed to be addressed. 

The new chef has changed the menu quite a bit to fit his own style, as he should. Greg is actually a rather brilliant chef and I truly loved working along side him when he was my Sous Chef.  When I left they really didn't announce the change. I was sad to go. I cried buckets of tears. I didn't really say much here about the change either. I have since moved on, but will look back on the bistro days with fondness. It was a remarkable experience. I love them all. Seriously.

The early classics that I had there are no longer available for ordering.  I get emails and messages on facebook almost daily, even though I haven't been at the bistro for over six months asking when I will be back and if not, can I at least share the recipes on my blog.  Though I don't think I can share the exact recipes that I used in the bistro, I will share ones that are close.

One favorite was the Roasted Sirloin Beef Salad Sandwich on a house-made tomato basil baguette.  The bread was my recipe that I've shared here on the blog. It is a simple no-knead artisan dough that pretty much anyone can make with very little effort. 

 6 ingredient Tomato and Herb No Knead Bread Anyone Can Make

The chilled steak salad was a great way for us to utilize filet mignon that we had overage of from the catering events and sell in the bistro.  This was beef that had not been served to guests, but rather was held in reserve at the banquet events. Sometimes there would be more beef on-hand than we needed and it was still good. We'd chill it immediately to keep it safe for consumption later, and then we'd mix it to make the chilled Steak salad. It is a delightfully refreshing salad. I was at first, a little nervous about how my guests would react to a cold steak salad, but it was well received.  

There's a nice infusion of fresh herb, garlic and a touch of creamy horseradish to add just the right amount of kick.  We served it with fresh arugula micro-greens and edible orchids drizzled with a tart-sweet balsamic glaze ( Here).

Tess Steak Salad Sandwich Spread
2 pound filet mignon or sirloin, roasted or grilled to medium-rare, cooled and diced
1/4 cup minced  fresh parsley
2Tbsp minced fresh thyme
1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
2Tbsp minced garlic
1tsp Chef Tess All Purpose Seasoning (online here)
1 ½ cups Mayonnaise
3/4 cup red onion, minced
1T horseradish
Salt And Pepper, to taste

Combine ingredients, adjusting quantities to taste. Be sure to add enough salt and pepper.
Keep refrigerated until you need it. Spread on toasted wheat bread or serve as a salad on a piece of Romaine lettuce.

There you go! An awesome chilled salad for the hot summer days still ahead of us!

Onward and Upward my darlings!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Bread of Life Section: My Preeminent Identity

Sunday is the day I share a little of my soul. Enjoy.

It's been a bit. Things have been insane here.  In all honesty, I feel like I've been under a bit if a spiritual and emotional attack...

 I can joke about it now. But in reality, it has been several months since I felt like I was normal. I've been discouraged. I'd been trying to face my battles alone. I'd had physical and spiritual pain. There were heartbreaks when circumstances and my reality were very different from what I had anticipated. I was a shining example of a whining baby girl. I wanted justice. I wanted the person I trusted to know that they failed me. I was disoriented. My first response to hardships was not good.

Mainly, I had allowed myself to get numb to my real identity. My preeminent Identity, being that I am a daughter of God. Remembering deep down that I am a child of the Almighty God and heir to His kingdom, would have made the last few months a lot more bearable. Yet I allowed myself instead to focus on the distractions. It's easy to do. Perhaps you've done it too?

"The more distractions that surround us, the easier it is to treat casually, then ignore, and then forget our connection with God" (learn more about this phenomenon Here)

Let me explain. I have, over the last few years, starting identifying myself as a few things:

Chef Tess
Cookbook Author
TV personality
It wasn't until about a month ago when I really started to focus again on my REAL identity that things have started to settle in my life. Confession.  I had stopped going to church for several months. At a time when I should have run desperately and helplessly into the arms of God, I withdrew. I made the excuse that it was mainly because I was so intensely tired at the end of the exhausting work week (and yes, I'm still struggling with a brain tumor  that gives me remarkable pain most days), and then it just got easy to not go because I had been away for so long and I didn't really feel like anyone really missed me anyway. At least, I told myself I wasn't missed.  Look. It was a mistake to think that way. 
In retrospect, I realize that my depression and dark feelings were in fact a direct result of missing that fundamental weekly refocusing on my eternal perspective. It didn't matter what else happened in the week. I just needed to go. Is any church  perfect? Nope. Church isn't perfect because people are there and people are dorks.  People are broken. They're there at church to learn just like you.
Sometimes they make mistakes or say thoughtless things.  Sometimes people will break your heart. 

People are not God. 
Jesus Christ  and His Gospel are perfect.

I said to myself  at the end of a particularly painful week, "If you're going to church to get people's opinion, you're going for the wrong reason. The only opinion that matters is the opinion of your Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ. They asked you to be there every week. The end. That's the request from a Loving Father who knows what you need more than you do." 

So...I did go back. 

Yesterday I reconnected with my darling friend Tara. We baked like we did seven years ago when I first started this little blog and the incredible journey that has come from sharing my adventures here. I finally feel like a cloud has lifted. 
She's my sister in Christ. So sibling baking is totally cool.

I'm still a chef. Chef Tess. Baker. Author. You know the list that you call yourself to strangers.
From now on however, the first and foremost identity that you can bank on, is that I know who I am and who has my best interests in mind. No matter what I have an absolute trust that He allows me some suffering, some discouragement, some struggle because that is what real good Fathers do...they raise up their children. He will raise me up to walk on stormy seas. He will walk with me through fire. He will never, no never, forsake his child. If I ever forget that, just give me a little nudge. I'll nudge you too. We are, after all, Children of the Most High God. 

Happy Sunday my darlings. 

Love Always,
Daughter of God

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bacon Jalapeno Baked Brie Strata for Breakfast and Beyond

Either you love bacon, or you're wrong. How's that. Okay. Maybe I just offended about half of the world's global population using that introduction, but I just won over the rest of them. I'm a red-blooded American girl who eats a few pork items now and then. I don't eat it every day, but let's face it, this isn't your everyday recipe.  This is something for the book of savory-ridiculousness.  A savory peppery brie enshrouded in a creamy fluffy bread-type pudding that is topped with a crispy, salty,smoky layer of bacon studded with slices of jalapeno. It's a freak-show. A good freak show.

 First let's talk about Stratas. 

What's a Strata anyway?   

When I first met my soon-to-be Mother in law, the subject of "family favorite meals" came up in conversation.  That wasn't new to me at the time as a young chef chick.  "Meal time" is always a safe subject when one finds out that a soon-to-be-daughter-in-law can cook. To her credit she didn't delve into hard-core political rants (that was for later) but we did talk about the neutral ground of what she had made Ace for dinner for years.  That was fun. I learned a lot about his childhood from that first conversation with her. She mentioned a few times this magical "cheese souffle" that she made often for the adorable tyke. I cringed. Oh stink. He was raised on souffle?!! Seriously?!!!
She whipped out the family photo album.  Several hours later and several tattered photo albums later, I learned that her cheese souffle was really a cheese strata. Phew. That was good news.  If ace was accustomed to real souffle for dinner, my life would be a lot more complicated! 

Cheese Souffle requires whipping egg whites (ugh) and making a thick cheese sauce (doable but not something I enjoy on most days) and folding things together with diplomatic poise and baking them to perfection in a lovely ceramic dish that is just the right size. Daggumit Martha Stewart.  I could see fresh pressed linen and crocheted doilies in my future.  All this meal preparation is then executed with precise timing within minutes of Ace's arrival home from work to assure it could come out of the oven fluffy and elegantly structured. That's a lot of freaking pressure for a young bride. 

Cheese Strata on the other hand, is a totally delicious, simple, make-ahead heaven of a dish that any gal could do in minutes and could not mess up!   It's bread cubes combined with an egg and milk batter topped with cheese or having the cheese folded into the bread mixture. It's then good for keeping in the fridge and baking at dinner time, or baking ahead and reheating individual servings in the microwave or oven. 

Turns out, my Mother in law (AKA Cussing Granny) has been one hundred percent a heaven of a person to have as mom and friend and certainly not one to make pretentious dishes or expect any over indulgence of her son with anything but love and attention.  I adore that.  I adore that she is a real down-to-earth woman. I'm so glad that's what she wanted in a daughter in law. 

Enters today's variation on a cheese strata. Baked Brie. Bacon. Jalapeno. This is a go-to.  This is a nod to the simple cheese strata that Ace grew up with, made into a more gourmet creation by a chef-wife who still has to cook meals for a family, on a budget, every day of the week. 

You will need:

  • 5-6 cups bread cubes
  • 6 oz brie, sliced (or any cheese of your choice)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups milk or cream
  • 1/4 lb bacon, diced
  • 3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • butter for coating the baking dish

Butter the inside of an 8X8X4 inch baking dish and fill with bread cubes topping with brie slices. Crack fresh black pepper over the mixture and fold them together. 

 Combine the milk and eggs. Add salt and pepper to them.
Whisk well.

Pour  the egg mixture over the bread and brie mixture. Allow to sit a while. 
 Now for the bacon and jalapeno...
 Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat 3-4 minutes. Add the bacon. Cook until almost crispy then add the jalapenos.  Cook 2-3 minutes more.
Distribute the bacon mixture over the bread-brie mixture, leaving most of the bacon on top...meaning seriously don't mix them up. You know why? Because when you bake it the bacon will stay crispy. 

At this point you can either put the unbaked strata in the fridge and chill for up to 1 week, or bake for dinner/breakfast right now.  We usually opt for baking it right away. 350 degrees 20-25 minutes until bubbly and delicious.

You'll have this thick rich layer of a cheese strata topped with a crispy bacon jalapeno layer that will seriously rock the universe. Most of the time we drizzle it with  maple syrup or a simple apricot jam for a savory-sweet yin-yang magical experience. 
There you go darlings. 
Simple. Delicious. Fast. Budget-friendly. 
Serve with a simple salad and vinaigrette and dinner is served. 
Serve with a fresh fruit salad and breakfast is served. 
 Serve it with both kinds of salad and nobody will know what time it is. 

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess