Elias Cairo Makes a Cheesy One-Pan Kielbasa-Apple Strata
For an audio described version of this video, click here.
Apples can play equally well in sweet and savory dishes, whether you bake them in a pie or put them in a quiche. In this week's episode of Chefs at Home, chef Elias Cairo, the founder of Olympia Provisions, gives them the savory treatment, including them in a one-pan strata with kielbasa and plenty (seriously, a lot) of cheese. We're talking Gouda and creamy Mornay sauce made with Gruyère. He demos the recipe from his backyard in Portland, Oregon, whipping up the strata and also sharing his top five types of sausage (hint: kielbasa is definitely on the list). Read on for his step-by-step method, and follow along in the video above so you, too, can treat yourself to this super cheesy, savory apple-studded meal.
Here’s What You’ll Need
The key ingredients for strata are eggs, milk, and day-old bread—you can use any stale bread you have, Cairo notes, and if you have fresh bread, be sure to dry it in the oven first. The beautiful thing about strata is you can use what you have on hand for the filling (for example, Justin Chapple’s rye bread strata includes crème fraîche, scallions, smoked salmon, and sliced red onion), and in this case, Cairo reaches for apples, goat Gouda, mustard, salt, and kielbasa.
As for the Mornay sauce? Grab flour, butter, and nutmeg, which Cairo says is the “key to pretty much every custard”—plus plenty of Gruyère.
Start on the Strata
Cairo puts six eggs, milk, a little salt, Dijon mustard, and freshly grated nutmeg into a bowl, whisking it together. He also cuts the bread into pieces to help make layers for the strata, saying you’ll want about four cups. The bread pieces get folded into the other ingredients in the bowl with a spatula and Cairo says to let it sit—you want to give it 15 minutes at minimum, but if you prepare it the night before, you’ll get a better strata, he says. (The liquid will soak into the bread and give it a more “pudding-y” texture.)
As the bread mixture sits and his Big Green Egg heats up—he’s going to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit, but at home with an oven, he says to go with 350F—he gets going on the kielbasa-apple-onion component of the strata. The dish is a “one-pan extravaganza,” and he starts melting some butter in a skillet to crisp up the kielbasa. Once they’re done, he removes them from the pan and starts peeling the apples (Braeburn are good baking apples, he notes, but you can use what you have).
Next, the chopped onions go in the pan with the residual kielbasa grease—be careful not to burn the onions as you cook them—and then, he cuts up the apples and puts them in as well. After he slices the kielbasa, he adds those pieces in too, tossing it all together. The kielbasa-apple-onion mixture is added to the bowl with the custardy bread mixture, and then, it’s time to add in the Gouda chunks. He mixes it all up, and then places it back in the skillet, using a spatula to press it down. The strata will go in the Big Green Egg for 25 minutes—in a 350F degree oven, you’d want to cook it until it’s “golden brown and just cooked through,” roughly 45 minutes.
Make the Mornay
While the strata cooks, it’s time to make the Mornay. Cairo starts by making a roux with flour and butter (make sure you don’t let it get too toasty), and then whisks in milk, adding freshly grated nutmeg and salt, too. He says to “cook the flour out” (aka, ensure the sauce doesn’t taste like raw flour), and notes that even though the sauce is thick, you want to cook it for 10 to 15 minutes. When it comes off the heat, he adds it to the bowl with the grated Gruyère, stirring it all together to finish the sauce.
Plate It and Enjoy
Cairo tests the strata by taking a knife and dipping it in the center—if you put it to your lip and it’s too hot, “you’re ready to roll,” he says. When it’s ready, he takes the skillet and places a serving board on top of it, inverting the strata onto the board and shimmying it out to display it in all its golden, crispy glory. He cuts a wedge and pours a generous amount of Mornay on top, finishing it with a drizzle of honey and some crunchy flaky salt. The end result is a savory, cheesy meal you could easily enjoy for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Join us next week for our next episode of Chefs at Home featuring Nicole Russell of Last Dragon Pizza.