The holiday season seems like a good time to be a little extravagant, and this recipe for Crab Strata is a pretty luscious one. I picked it up this summer in Stonington-Deer Isle from Caroline Rittenhouse who got it from the Stonington artist Michie Stovall O’Day.
This is just the ticket for a holiday brunch gathering or Christmas morning breakfast because you can assemble it ahead and bake it the next day when you want it. If you are one of those patient folks who like to pick crab and have access to some, then you can save a few dollars. You also can use lobster and mix it with the crab or go with either alone. When those lovely little Maine shrimp are available, consider using them in this dish.
I don’t happen to have any on hand, but it occurred to me that if you have Old Bay seasoning in your cupboard or a Cajun-style spice blend, those might be a good way to season the dish.
Caroline and Michie like to use leftover baguettes for the bread, and you can use that, too, or any good, firm bread as long as it is not so assertively flavored that it diminishes the crab. Whether or not you take the crusts off is up to you.
Looking for … squash pie
Norma Haynie, of Whitneyville, wrote to say that since her mother died recently (at age 97!) she and her sisters find that they do not have her recipe for squash pie. Norma said, “I really think this is a thing of the past. But our family never did the Pumpkin Thing until cookies, muffins and bread became popular. My older sister said she has never known anyone but our mother to make squash pie.” She recollects that besides squash, the pie had milk, eggs, nutmeg and sugar in it. Norma and her sisters would be forever grateful if someone stepped up with a squash pie recipe.
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4 to 6 slices of bread, or as needed
8 ounces shredded Cheddar, mild or sharp according to taste
16 ounces crab meat
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3 eggs, beaten
1 pint half-and-half or light cream
½ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper or hot sauce to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Grease a 9-by-13 glass or ceramic casserole dish. Lay the bread in bottom of the casserole. Sprinkle most of the cheese over it, then the crab, and drizzle with the butter. Beat together eggs, half-and-half and seasonings and pour that over layers in casserole. Top with remaining cheese. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, preheat oven to 350, and bake the casserole for about an hour, uncovered, until it is puffy and golden.