Friday, August 1, 2008

Brie for Breakfast

I love breakfast food. Love, love, love. And don't give me any of that egg-white omelette, non-fat yogurt stuff. I want big thick slices of bread, rich yellow egg yolks and crisp red bacon streaked with tan. So when my mom made this for Easter brunch a few months ago, I didn't stop thinking about it until last night when I decided to make it myself.

I don't think this recipe was originally intended to be a breakfast food, but it's just so perfect. She served it with baked french toast spread with vanilla-bean butter and maple baked bacon, and it was a wonderful savory counterpoint to the french toast and the orange juice. The top was crusty and golden, and inside was moist and melted with cheese and artichoke hearts. The moment I tasted it, though, I knew what it was missing: something to give it another texture, something to stand up to the artichokes. It was missing mushrooms.

So I made it for myself and added the mushrooms. It was perfect. Everything that I loved about it was still there, and now there were mushrooms. Plump, tender mushrooms. And when I say it was perfect, I mean except for one itty bitty thing. I think it could use another addition: bacon. Not a ton of it, but just enough to give it a little crunch. So if anyone ever makes this and takes that into consideration, let me know. I have enough leftovers here to last me a while, so I don't think I'll be making it again any time soon.

This recipe makes a ton of food, so I wouldn't judge you if you cut it in half.

Spinach, Artichoke and Mushroom Stuffing
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

Something important about this recipe: chop everything beforehand. It is undoubtedly the most time-consuming part of the whole process. Emeril says that this only takes fifteen minutes of prep time. He is either lying, or has six sets of hands.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds spinach
1 pound mushrooms (I just sliced up one large container from the store)
2 cups chopped yellow onion (slightly less than one large onion)
1 tbs chopped garlic
3 (8.5 oz) cans quartered artichoke hearts
2 large eggs
1 loaf cubed (1 inch) day-old French bread (You can use fresh bread if you have to, but it won't soak up the liquid as well)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 cups chicken stock
2 tbs lemon juice
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 pound Brie, rind removed and cut into cubes
Salt, pepper, basil, oregano and parsley flakes to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 baking pan with olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the spinach. Cook until wilted, about 30 seconds. Drain and rinse with cold water. Squeeze as much water as possible from the spinach and chop roughly. Set it aside.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat in the biggest skillet you can find. (Trust me--there's going to be a lot of stuff in it.) Add the chopped onions and cook until they're just beginning to brown. Add the garlic, and spices to taste. Cook for about thirty seconds, and add the artichoke hearts and the mushrooms. Stir and cook for another 3-4 minutes and remove from heat.

Combine eggs, cream, chicken stock and lemon juice, along with more spices to taste, in a large bowl and whisk. Add the bread, spinach, artichoke and mushroom mixture, Brie, and 1/2 cup of your Parmesan. If the bread doesn't soak up the liquid right away, let it sit for 15-20 minutes.

Pour the mixture into your baking dish and brush the top with the remaining olive oil. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan on top. (You can always add more...just a thought.) Bake in the oven for about an hour, until the top is golden brown and the center is firm.

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