Strata Rules at Germantown Café

Brunch is a meal to look forward to, and Germantown Café is the perfect little spot to enjoy it in. Nestled in a beautiful corner of Germantown, this quaint, homey restaurant consistently serves up delicious and well-made dishes week after week.

The Café makes no pretense about their food; they cook straightforward, traditional cuisine with minimal twists. When the product and preparation are this good, there’s really no need to adjust it.

Though they might be famous for their ever-rotating homemade cheesecake, Germantown Café’s brunch menu carries its own moments of bliss. Bread service consists of little cinnamon sugar beignets, served warm in a basket, which are, by themselves, worth the roll off a pillow in the morning. A personal favorite, however, is the Chef’s Strata. The variety may be different each week, but it’s always comfortingly savory and slathered in a beautiful mornay sauce (cheesy béchamel). Enjoying the strata from Germantown Café is simply the best way to start a day.

Between the delightful food and considerate service, Germantown Café honors the happy escape brunch is supposed to be.

Online, the Café calls itself “a neighborhood restaurant worth leaving your neighborhood for,” a notion with which many satisfied customers agree.

RECIPE TO MAKE AT HOME

Strata is delicious and incredibly home-cook-friendly. With the holidays quickly approaching, it’s the perfect dish to feed the family. Also, there’s the bonus that it can be made ahead of time and then it needs only to be popped in the oven in the morning, freeing up precious time for the rest of the beautiful chaos that’s a holiday morning with family.

Anne Byrn’s Make-Ahead Breakfast Strata

Serves: 6 to 8

Prep time: 30 minutes

Total time: 9 hours, 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup onion, minced

1/4 cup red bell pepper, minced

10 slices soft Italian-style bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)

1 cup (4 ounces) finely minced ham, if desired

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 cups milk, preferably whole

6 large eggs

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Pinch of cayenne or nutmeg, if desired

1 cup crushed Ritz or buttery round crackers (about 16 crackers)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Method:

1. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick oil spray.

2. In a small skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables soften, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. Scatter half of the bread cubes in the baking dish. Top with the ham (if desired), followed by the cheeses and the onion and pepper mixture. Cover with the remaining bread cubes.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, mustard and cayenne or nutmeg (if using). Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes and press down to submerge them in the liquid.

5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

6. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 F.

7. Remove the baking dish from the fridge and uncover.

8. In a small bowl, toss the cracker crumbs with the melted butter. Using your fingers, scatter the crumb mixture over the top of the soaked bread cubes.

9. Bake until golden brown, about 1 hour. Serve immediately.

Recipe from SouthernKitchen.com.

Germantown Café Strata

Ingredients

8 eggs (mixed)

2 cups bread, cubed (any preference, but brioche seems to work the best)

1 cup grated cheese (any preference)

2 cups vegetables (choose favorites—we usually do red peppers or tomatoes for color)

Method

Mix all ingredients well. 

Put in casserole dish (no deeper than 2 inches; 10-by-12-inch should work, or two smaller pans).

Bake at 350 F for 30–45 minutes until brown and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Mornay Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk and 1/4 teaspoon salt heated to a boil in a small saucepan

Salt and pepper

1/4–1/2 cup grated Parmesan, Gruyere or white cheddar (or a combination)

Pinch of nutmeg

Method

1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.

2. Blend in the flour, and cook slowly, stirring, until the butter and flour froth together for 2 minutes without coloring to create a white roux. 

3. Remove the roux from heat. As soon as the roux stops bubbling, pour in all hot milk mixture at once. Immediately beat vigorously with a wire whisk to blend liquid and roux, gathering in all bits of roux from the inside edges of the pan. 

4. Set saucepan over moderately high heat and stir with the wire whisk until the sauce comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, while stirring. 

5. Remove from heat, and beat in the cheese until it has melted and blended with the sauce. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. 

Mornay sauce recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.