I got my first 2019 Father’s Day wine marketing e-mail today. As I read it, it occurred to me that this is the first time in all my years as a wine importer/retailer that the copy didn’t come across like an Old Spice commercial.
I’m sure you know what I’m talking about – a combination of deeply-scented tasting notes and words like rugged, bold, and powerful. You can practically hear the sea shanty playing in the background as you read the text.
I also realized that this year’s Mother’s Day pitches were a lot more subdued than usual. In the past, they’ve veered between “Give mom roses and rosé!” and a bottled version of girls’ night out. Some couldn’t decide between the two and tried to thread the needle, with predictable results.
Instead, the Mother’s Day copy now leans heavily on words like natural or additive-free, and highlights the small family farms that make the product. And the lone Father’s Day example I’ve received so far is (aside from tasting notes) all about small-batch wine and hints at collectability.
Maybe these are just new and improved gender stereotypes, but at least they’re more about qualities we associate with wine and wine production, and less about how you’re going to feel or present yourself if you drink them. Of course, it’s also possible I’ve fallen off the wine marketing lists that still live in the 1990s. I’m happy with either outcome.
One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is that I still cringe when I read “gift” used as a verb. Anyone who has taken German knows that gift means poison, so gifting someone a bottle of wine seems very Lucrezia Borgia. You’d think that’s not an image any wine marketer would want.
Cy and I visited my parents over Mother’s Day weekend and I made a late breakfast for Sunday. It was a strata, which is sort of a savory bread pudding. The name comes from the appearance – they’re usually layers of bread and other ingredients. They also sort of look like a cobblestone street, and “strada” means road in Italian. I have seen them called both, but “strata” predominates these days.
Stratas have two things going for them: you can put in practically anything you like, and you assemble them the night before, put them in the fridge overnight, and then take out and bake the next day. So if you’re planning on a girls’ night out situation, you can still make that fabulous brunch, whether it’s Mother’s Day weekend or not.
The one I made used breakfast sausage, spinach, tomato, and both cheddar and Swiss cheese. I’ve also recently made one with shrimp, chard, Gruyere, and goat cheese. Just make sure you follow the salt-fat-acid-heat test. In the two examples, you have salt from cheese, cured/smoked meats, and, well, salt. There’s fat in the meats, cheeses, and eggs, and acid from the tomatoes and sharp cheeses (pickled peppers also work well here). You can also make it “bold” (for a throwback Father’s Day brunch, perhaps) and add some bacon, but I’d keep the amount of bacon to about a quarter of the total meat in the dish. Any more and that’s all you’ll taste, which reminds me that you should also apply Old Spice only sparingly.
The recipe below is more of a guideline for you to add what you like or have on hand. I’m assuming you’ll eat it for breakfast or brunch, although the leftovers make a great dinner, too. Serve it with some Domaine la Croix des Marchands Méthode Ancestrale Brut ($18). It’s a naturally-sparkling wine with no additives (other than sulfites as a preservative). And it’s small batch, too, made on a small family farm with a sustainability certification. Enough to make nearly any of today’s wine marketers happy!
Serves 8 abundantly, up to 12 more modest servings
1 loaf Italian bread, or about 1-1/2 baguettes, sliced ¾-inch thick. It’s better to use day-old bread. If that’s not possible, try baking the slices at 250 degrees F for about 15 minutes to dry them out a bit, then let cool.
1 pound cooked meat cut in small pieces – either one meat or a combination, cold or at room temperature. Like breakfast or Italian sausage, chicken, turkey, ham, shrimp, or bacon. If you want to use bacon, try 4 ounces along with 12 ounces of a different meat.
2 cups packed grated cheese (about 8 ounces), divided use – either one cheese or a combination. Like Gruyere, cheddar, Swiss, Muenster, Manchego, Parmesan, or Pecorino Romano. If you’re using Parmesan or Pecorino, use only ½ cup and 1-1/2 cups of a different cheese.
1 pound of greens – spinach, chard, kale, or collards. You can mix and match if you like, but one is usually better because not all greens take the same amount of time to cook.
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
9 large eggs
3 cups milk, or a combination of 2 cups milk and 1 cup cream
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Lightly oil a 13 x 9-inch Pyrex or ceramic dish and set aside. Take the tougher stems off the greens, finely chop the stems and roughly chop the leaves. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet, and add the stems with a little salt. Cook for about 5 minutes. Then add the leaves in batches, cooking until they wilt. For kale or collards, turn the heat down to low, cover the pan, and cook for 5-10 minutes until tender. Spinach and chard will be cooked enough when they wilt. Scrape the greens into a colander to drain and cool. When they’re cool, squeeze some water out with a big spoon or with your hands, then roughly chop and set aside.
In the same skillet, heat another tablespoon of oil and saute the onion with a little salt until it starts to brown around the edges, about 10-15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute, then add the diced-up meat. Stir everything well, then let cool.
Whisk the eggs and milk/cream with 1 teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and two pinches of Cayenne. Set aside.
Fit a layer of bread slices in the bottom of the greased baking dish. Cut up a couple of slices to fill any large gaps. Layer on the cooked greens, then the tomatoes, then half the meat/onion mixture, and half the cheese. Top with another layer of bread slices (patching the large gaps), and then layer on the remaining meat/onion mixture. Don’t put the rest of the cheese on at this point, set the remaining cup of cheese in the fridge.
Carefully pour the egg/milk mixture over the bread. Do it slowly, and make sure it’s evenly distributed. Cover the pan with foil that you’ve sprayed with some nonstick baking spray, and put it in the fridge for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
Take the strata out of the fridge about an hour before you want to start baking. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Put the strata in the oven, foil and all, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, and top with the remaining cup of cheese. Bake, uncovered for 15 minutes until the cheese has melted and the edges of the bread get a little browned. Let the strata rest for 5 minutes, then serve.