Imagine my surprise when, sometime during the Second Annual Maine Restaurant Week, which was the first week in March, I discovered I won their recipe contest, sponsored in conjunction with the Portland Museum of Art. The Museum published four works of art from their most recent show, "Objects of Wonder," and asked cooks to create a recipe based on one of the pieces. Since brunch is my favorite way to entertain, I chose to make an egg strata that incorporated elements of Ralph Steiner's photograph "Ham and Eggs." This easy, delicious recipe is perfect for entertaining, since it can be made up to 24 hours ahead of time and refrigerated until ready for the oven.
Ham and Eggs, Ralph Steiner
They notified me in the form of a press release:
"Congratulations Candace Karu. The winner of Maine Restaurant Week’s “Dining on Still Life” recipe contest. Candace based her submission on “Ham and Eggs” (1930 Ralph Steiner, United States, 1899–1986), from the exhibition Objects of Wonder at the Portland Museum of Art. Her entry was Brunch After the Museum Strata Casserole.
With Easter and family gatherings coming up this weekend, I though I would post this simple, delicious recipe in case you wanted to invite everyone in for brunch after the Easter Egg hunt!
"Brunch after the Museum" Strata Casserole
Serves 8 8 ounces diced ham 1 small onion, chopped 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened 6 slices Italian bread 8 ounces Cremini (baby Portabella) mushrooms, sliced 1 (8.5-ounce) can artichoke hearts, squeezed dry and quartered 8 ounces Cabot Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated, about 2 cups (Cabot 50% or 75% Reduced Fat Cheddar) 2 tablespoons chopped basil 1 dozen large eggs (Egg Beaters or other egg substitute) 1 cup sour cream (low fat sour cream) 1 teaspoon dried mustard 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
Steps: 1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 2. In large skillet over medium-high heat, cook onions and mushrooms until tender; let mixture cool. 3. Spread butter evenly over both sides of bread slices. Arrange in even layer over bottom of 9-by-13-inch baking dish, cutting to fit if necessary. Top with layer of artichoke hearts, then mushroom-onion mixture, basil leaves and cheese. 4. In large bowl, whisk eggs until well combined. Whisk in dry mustard, sour cream, salt and pepper. Then stir in the ham. Pour mixture evenly over ingredients in baking dish. 5. Bake strata until top is golden and eggs are completely set, about 1 hour. Serve hot. (For reduced fat version, substitute ingredients in parentheses.)