Posts Tagged With: French toast

Frittatas, Stratas, and Quiche, Oh My

Frittatas, stratas, and quiche are all egg dishes typically served for breakfast or brunch, although you could also serve them for dinner. They are very similar and often get confused with one another. They all include eggs and usually cheese. They may also include meat, seafood, and/or vegetables. They are all savory dishes; however, a strata could go sweet. They are great for feeding groups, large or small.

Frittata

You could describe a frittata as a crustless quiche. You could also describe it as a baked omelet. Either way, it is easy to make at home and in camp. Because it has no crust, a frittata is naturally gluten free. If you leave out the cheese or substitute a non dairy cheese then it becomes dairy free. If you leave out meat, now it’s vegetarian. Frittatas are very versatile.

To make at home, you’ll need a cast iron skillet or an oven safe skillet. In camp, you’ll need a Dutch oven. Start by browning the meat and sautéing the vegetables. If you want your vegetables to be crisp, you could skip that step. Whisk together the eggs, cheese and any seasonings, and pour over the top of the meats and vegetables. And then you bake it. If you wanted, you could sprinkle a little more cheese on top during the last 5 minutes of baking. Serve warm. It makes a great breakfast any time of year. Here are a couple of our favorite frittatas.

Denver Frittata

Zucchini and Onion Frittata

Ham and Cheese and Broccoli Frittata

Strata

Literally meaning layers, a strata is a layered breakfast casserole made from a mixture of bread, eggs, milk, and cheese. A savory version may also include meat or vegetables. A sweet version may include fruit. The usual preparation requires the bread to be layered with the filling; however, depending on the recipe, you could also toss everything together like a salad before pouring the egg mixture over the top. The dish requires a rest of anywhere between one hour and overnight before it is baked. This allows the bread to soak up the egg mixture. A strata could also be described as a French toast casserole or a bread pudding. Stratas can be prepped the night before and then placed in the refrigerator to rest. In the morning, you just pull it out and pop it into the oven.

To make at home, you’ll need a casserole dish. In camp, you’ll need a Dutch oven or you could make it in a casserole dish and bake it in a box oven. Meats will need to be browned and vegetables could be sautéed to soften them. Bread will need to be cubed or torn into chunks. To increase the bread’s ability to absorb the egg mixture, some recipes recommend using stale or dried bread. Serve warm. Here are a couple of our favorite stratas.

Sausage Croissant Strata

Fruity French Toast Casserole

Blueberry French Toast Cobbler

Quiche

Quiche has an open-faced pastry crust and a filling of eggs and milk or cream which, when baked, becomes a custard. It can be made with cheese, vegetables, meat and seafood. A quiche is a frittata in a pie crust. You wouldn’t think the pie crust would add much in the way of flavor, but it actually brings a lot to the party and really gives the dish its signature flavor. Quiche can be served hot or cold although I prefer mine served hot. In the late ‘70s, quiche became extremely popular and they were featured everywhere, including television and movies. By the early ‘80s, the fad seemed to fade; however, quiche has remained steady brunch and party food since.

At home, you’ll need a pie or tart pan. In camp, I would also use a pie or tart pan and bake it in a box oven. You can use a store-bought crust or make your own. Just like the others, meats would need to be browned first and vegetables could be sautéed to soften them. I haven’t actually made a quiche in camp yet, but I might have to now.

Again, these are all great dishes for serving to groups, large and small. They are simple to throw together and, for camping, a lot of prep work could be done ahead of time at home. You can serve them with potato dishes, breads, fruits, or just about anything.

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Grease is the Word

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A little bit of grease can go a long way toward creating a successful dish. Whether it’s cooking pancakes, French toast or grilled cheese on a griddle, searing a steak in a cast iron skillet, or sautéing vegetables in a Dutch oven, they will all cook better if the vessel is first greased with a little bit of fat.

I have lost count the number of times I have gone camping with young scouts who decide to make pancakes for breakfast but they fail to grease their griddle first. The result is stuck on, broken, burnt pancakes. This does not make for happy campers and it is a tragedy because it could have been easily prevented by smearing on just a little bit of fat first.

And, while I would like to say that any grease is better than no grease, in some cases, there is definitely a right grease for the job. But first, let’s talk smoke point.

Smoking Hot

Smoke point is the temperature at which an oil starts to break down. You’ll know it’s happening when the oil starts to, well, smoke. Each type of oil has a slightly different smoke point. Do your best to avoid the smoke point. While it’s not harmful to your health, cooking oil past its smoke point can cause nutrient loss and create unpleasant off-flavors that’ll affect the taste of the finished dish.

If the heat source is not properly managed and an oil continues to heat and breakdown, as it degrades, it’s also getting closer to its flash point, which can result in its catching fire, sometimes quite spectacularly. I prefer to avoid this since I’m pretty attached to my eyebrows and would like to keep them!

In most cases, and in most nationalities, olive oil and/or butter are the fats of choice. Vegetable oils also have their uses. Here’s my short list of go to fats.

Olive Oil

The health benefits of olive oil are unrivaled, and research reveals more benefits nearly every day. In fact, we are only just beginning to understand the countless ways olive oil can improve our health, and our lives. Olive oil is the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet—an essential nutritional mainstay for the world’s longest-living cultures.

In addition to the health benefits, olive oil is excellent for cooking because it has a higher smoke point (375°F -470°F, depending on type), which is great for inexperienced cooks and campers where managing the heat is a challenge. Olive oil also brings nice flavors to whatever you’re cooking and is essential to creating aromatics in Cajun, Italian, and Latin cuisines.

Aromatics are combinations of vegetables and herbs (and sometimes even meats) that are heated in some fat at the beginning of a dish. The heated fat helps these ingredients release addictive aromas and impart deep flavors into the dish that’s being cooked.

Butter

Paula Deen is famous for saying, “Everything’s better with butter.” For the most part, she is right. When heated, butter develops a beautiful nutty flavor as the milk solids (proteins and sugars) caramelize. When butter is used as a cooking medium, such as for searing a steak or sautéing vegetables, it complements and enhances the flavors of the food that is being cooked in it. It also adds complexity to the flavor of sauces.

When you cook eggs in olive oil, they’re good. But when cooked in butter, eggs taste like the only breakfast you want to eat for the rest of your life.

Butter is simply amazing for searing a steak and I couldn’t make a béchamel with anything but butter. I also wouldn’t make a grilled cheese sandwich without butter.

While its flavor is highly prized in cooking, there are drawbacks to cooking with butter. For one, it has a low smoke point. Butter starts to smoke at around 350°F.

Another way to cook with butter at higher temperatures is to use clarified butter. Clarified butter is the pure, golden butterfat from which the milk solids and water have been removed. Because it’s the milk solids that burn the fastest, pure butterfat can be heated much higher (around 450°F) before it starts to smoke.

Clarified butter is also preferred for making a roux, which is one of the most common ways of thickening a sauce. Clarified butter is better for this because the water in ordinary butter can cause an emulsified sauce like Hollandaise to separate.

Where olive oil leaves a pool behind in a bowl of pasta, butter beautifully coats each strand of fettuccine. Done right, where olive oil is good; butter is better.

Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oil is my go to choice for greasing my griddle before I pour on my pancake batter. Just a light coating on the griddle will help pancakes come up easier. Contrary to some opinions, even a non-stick griddle will benefit from a thin coating of vegetable oil.

Vegetable oils run the gamut, from coconut and sesame (350°F) to canola, corn, soybean, and peanut (450°F) with so many more in between. At the top of the food chain is safflower oil with a smoke point of 510°F! Technically, olive oil is a vegetable oil but it’s in a culinary class all its own and deserves to be singled out. All of these vegetable oils are very good for cooking and they impart their own flavors to whatever you’re cooking. The key factors to consider when choosing a vegetable oil are heating temperature (smoke point) and flavor. Here are a few unique factors to consider.

Canola oil has a neutral flavor, a 450°F smoke point, and is a good all-purpose oil.

Corn, safflower, and sunflower are all good for deep-frying and have light or neutral flavors.

Peanut oil has a mild flavor and high smoke point (450°F), which makes it great for deep-frying and a range of other cooking. It is popular in Asian cooking.

Sesame oil has a distinct flavor and is another popular Asian cooking oil. It is good for deep-frying, stir-frying, dipping sauces and dressings. Sesame oil is one of my favorites when I’m cooking Asian food.

Coconut oil is extremely popular right now. It has a distinct, sweet flavor and it’s natural sweetness makes it good for baking, sautéing, and in dressings.

So, there you have it. While not all oils are created equal, they are all good and should be a staple in your camp food box. I always pack a bottle of olive oil in my food tote and extra butter in my cooler since those are my preferred fats. The two together are an amazing combination as the olive oil brings stability and a higher smoke point while the butter brings that silky, nutty flavor and carmelization. If I’m making pancakes, I also pack a bottle of canola oil. If I’m cooking Asian I pack sesame oil.

Again, it’s all about the right grease for the job. So, no matter what you’re cooking, always start with a little bit of fat in the pan or on your griddle. Your pancakes and your campers will thank you!

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Categories: Cooking Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blueberry French Toast Casserole

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This French toast casserole is loaded with French toast flavor with none of the mess or bread flipping. It all goes together in a Dutch oven and, when it’s done, you can all sit down together and eat.

This recipe can be prepped up to 24 hours in advance so you could prep it at home right before you leave and then assemble it the next morning for a quick and easy breakfast in camp. It also makes a great breakfast at home that you can assemble the night before, and is a great way to do French toast if you’re feeding a crowd. If you dry the bread by baking it in the oven (instructions are at the bottom of the post) then the bread cubes will act like little sponges and really soak up the egg mixture and make a firmer casserole.

We’ve made this with fresh and frozen blueberries and with frozen peaches and we like each of those versions. The one pictured above was made with blueberries. Very yummy! We want to try apples next.

 

Equipment

12-inch Dutch oven or 3-quart rectangular baking dish, mixing bowl, whisk, measuring cups and spoons

 

Ingredients

12 slices white bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 8 cups), dried*

1 8 ounce packages cream cheese, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

1 ½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries, peaches or apple chunks

12 eggs

2 cups milk

1/2 cup maple syrup or maple-flavor syrup

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons vanilla

 

Prep

In a mixer at home or in a medium mixing bowl in camp, whip or whisk cream cheese until smooth. Add eggs, milk, syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla. The cream cheese will be lumpy and that’s okay.

Place half of the bread cubes over the bottom of a well-buttered 3-quart rectangular baking dish or foil-lined Dutch oven. Sprinkle fruit over bread cubes. Arrange remaining bread cubes over fruit.

Carefully pour egg mixture over the bread mixture. This can be covered and chilled up to 24 hours; however, I would not recommend chilling it in the Dutch oven. I would assemble it in a bowl for transport to camp and then, in the morning, just dump it into the foil-lined Dutch oven and bake. When we made this last weekend, we did everything in camp, assembled, and then let it sit while we prepped the coals and that was plenty of time for the bread to soak up the egg mixture.

Prep 25 coals.

Bake in a 350°F oven, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 coals underneath, for 50 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean, and topping is puffed and golden brown. Refresh coals as needed. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm with maple syrup or flavored syrup to compliment your fruit.

Serves 8

 

*To dry bread slices, arrange bread in a single layer on a wire rack; cover loosely and let stand overnight. Or cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes; spread in a large baking pan. Bake, uncovered, in a 300°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until dry, stirring twice; cool.

 

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Categories: Breakfasts, Dutch Oven, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blueberry French Toast Cobbler

blueberry_french_toastI first made this for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop when they were Brownies and they have loved it ever since. It’s always on our breakfast short list when we’re planning a camping menu. We love it for its sweet blueberry compote on the bottom and crusty French bread toasty top. The girls, who are now in high school, made this last spring at Camp Lyle McLeod during our annual encampment. It was a huge hit. A while back, my sister, Kathy, asked me for this recipe so here it is, Kat!

Equipment

12-inch Dutch oven

2 Large mixing bowls

Whisk

Bread knife

Cutting board

Rubber spatula

Large serving spoon

Topping Ingredients

1 baguette of French bread, sliced ¾-inch thick

5 eggs

¼ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

¾ cup milk

Filling Ingredients

4½ cups blueberries

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cornstarch

3 tablespoons butter

Powdered sugar

Prep Work

Start 33+ coals in a chimney.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, ¼ cup sugar, milk, baking powder, and vanilla. Whisk thoroughly. Add the bread slices, turning once to coat evenly. Cover and allow to set until all the egg mixture has been soaked up by the bread. In the time it takes you to get everything else prepped, this should be ready.

Heat the bottom of your Dutch oven and melt the butter. In another large mixing bowl, combine blueberries, ½ cup sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch. Pour blueberry mixture into Dutch oven. Place soaked bread on top of blueberries. Bake in a 450°F oven, using 22 coals on the top and 11 coals underneath, for 25 minutes or until blueberries are bubbling and bread is golden brown. Remove from heat and sprinkle with the powdered sugar. You don’t need any syrup with this, but you still could, if you wanted to. Serves 6-8.

Categories: Breakfasts, Dutch Oven, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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