Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tex-Mex Strata

As I sat at my computer a couple of Wednesdays back, planning the next week's meals and bemoaning the lack of non-dessert recipes on my to-make list, a new blog post popped up on Google reader to save me from my impending boredom. Ree Drummond of all things Pioneer Woman had just posted a recipe for sausage-kale strata, and it looked fabulously tasty. Now, I don't eat sausage, so I started to play with the recipe a bit, at first just subbing in cubed Gardein filets for the sausage, but then I went crazy with it, and ended up with Tex-Mex breakfast strata.

I'm a born-and-raised Texas girl. I may not eat meat or like football (yes, I may be asked to leave the state after this post), but I do love Tex-Mex food. There are weeks when I could eat it morning, noon and night, and with this recipe I think I just might.

My first run at it reminded me what I already know: sometimes simple is better. (And when testing out a new creation, starting with a mini version can save time and ingredients.) Including tomatoes, potatoes and spinach, while tasty, really distracted from the flavor combination I was looking for, so I went back to the drawing board and really paired it down. Definite improvement.

After eating the strata for a few mornings, I switched back to my usually toast with nut butter and strawberries breakfast and ate this for lunch or dinner instead. It's very tasty, but not sweet, and it seems that I want something sweet first thing in the morning. Me? Want something sweet? Shocking, I know.

Tex-Mex (Breakfast) Strata

Inspired by Ree Drummond's Sausage-Kale Strata

Makes 4-6 servings (depending on how big a piece you want)

  • 6 extra large eggs (or 8 large eggs)
  • 3/4 c milk
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 2 T fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 t ground cumin
  • 1/4 t cayenne
  • 2 c loaf day-old bread, cubed
  • 1 c black or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 c canned corn, drained (preferably the no salt added kind)
  • 1-1/2 c cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese, grated
  • 1 c salsa (recipe at the end)

  1. Get out a 9"x9" glass baking dish and set aside.
  2. Combine eggs, milk, salt, pepper, cumin and herbs, in a bowl or measuring cup. Whisk thoroughly to incorporate the yolks and whites and set aside.
  3. Layer the bread, beans, corn, and cheese in the baking dish.
  4. Pour the eggs into the baking dish slowly, dispersing the mixture as evenly as possible.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap (or a lid) and refrigerate overnight.
  6. When you're ready to bake it, take the dish out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap or lid, cover it with foil and pop it into a 350 degree F oven for 40 minutes. 
  7. Take off the foil and turn the oven up to 400 degrees F, continue baking until the cheese is toasted and browned, about 15 minutes. If you're impatient (like me) you can turn on the broiler for a few minutes to speed this up. Pull it out of the oven and let it rest for 5-10 minutes; if it's puffed up a bit the strata will deflate as it cools. Top with about 3 T salsa (per serving) and serve warm.

Semi-Fresh Salsa

Makes 2 cups salsa

  • 1 can stewed Mexican tomatoes
  • ~1-1 1/2 T jarred jalapeño juice, plus 2-3 slices
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 t sugar
  • Optional - 2-4 dehydrated ghost chilies (if you like your salsa HOT)
  • ~3/4 c yellow onion, chopped
  • ~1/2-3/4 c cilantro

  1. Add first 6 ingredients to blender or food processor. *For HOT salsa add an extra tablespoon of jalapeño juice and slices and ghost chilies* Pulse 5-6 times on low.
  2. Add onion, pulse 2-3 times on low.
  3. Add cilantro, pulse 3-4 times on low.
  4. Seal in an air-tight jar. Let chill at least 4 hours before eating.

Note: Since it's just the two of us if I'm making salsa just to have around the house I'll often divide the batch and make 1 cup regular and 1 cup burn-your-mouth-off hot (Jake loves to eat things that clear his sinuses and make his nose run for some reason). When I do a divided batch I just make the regular recipe, pour half of it into a container (which is soooo easy in my Cuisinart blender) and then add the extra jalapenos and ghost chilies to the half still in the pitcher. I try to let it sit for 5-15 minutes to give the dehydrated chili time to soften a bit so it's easier to blend, then just give it another few pulses on low and it's done.

This really is the best salsa recipe I've ever tasted. If you've ever been to the Dallas area, it reminds me a lot of the salsa at Christina's. It's a favorite with not only my husband, but my whole family. Last Christmas my brother ate through the batch I brought so fast that I had to make another (double) batch (technically my stepsister made it and I just instructed) before I headed home. And I had to email the recipe to my step mom and step sister. It really is THAT good.

Things I learned from this project:
  1. When creating a new dish, start with a mini version. It saves time and a lot of wasted ingredients if it doesn't come out right the first time.
  2. Also when trying something new, really think about the flavors you want to highlight and how each addition will affect those flavors: salsa adds a bit of acidity to this dish, but spinach really didn't contribute anything positive.


  1. so goooood!!! Love tex-mex, another of the great things I discovered in America :)

    1. Yep, I LOVE Tex-Mex. I spent a summer in London during college and I was having Tex-Mex withdrawl by the end of it. When I came home the first thing I did, before even going home and unpacking, was head to a Cuban restaurant for shrimp quesadillas (which isn't exactly Tex-Mex, but that particular restaurant was pretty close).