I’m a bacon and eggs girl all the way, and I believe in the savory goodness of a breakfast served 24 hours a day. And given my proclivities to resurrecting leftovers with simple ingredients lying around, a strata is a glorious combination of toasted bread and eggy custard, studded with your favorite toppings. Bacon, mushrooms, spinach, chard, cheese, tomatoes, peppers, you name it – if you can put it in an omlette, you can most likely include it in a strada.
I love this recipe for brunch guests for a couple of reasons. It’s a great make ahead recipe that requires little to no babysitting. Assemble leisurely and pop into the oven an hour before you want to eat. Drink mimosas until it’s time. Another thing I love is that this recipe rarely involves a trip to the grocery store – if you save your old bread when it gets too hard to eat, and just pluck some choice toppings from the fridge, you are in business. Worst case scenario, you have to go to the store for eggs and cream. Lastly, and most importantly, when this comes out of the oven, it looks incredibly impressive for being absolutely no work. The best kind of recipe there is.
If you are watching your waistline, you can absolutely make this recipe with egg beaters in lieu of eggs and fat-free evaporated milk instead of the cream. It is not as luxe, but it tastes damn good for having little to no fat. You’ll just need to figure out what you want to do about the 2 c. of cheese and 1 c. of filling – if you use full fat cheese and say, bacon, don’t assume that it’s full fat. Canadian bacon, good veggies, and a bit of sharp cheese (you need less because the taste is stronger) are good alternatives. I don’t even want to talk about fat-free cheese – why waste the calories on tasteless drivel. Lemme tell you how I really feel (ha!)
Ok, breakfast time!
Savory Breakfast Strata
3 c. of old bread, cubed (or fresh bread, cubed and toasted with a bit of olive oil)
1 1/4 c. of cream
1/8 tsp. of salt
1/8 tsp. of nutmeg
1/8 tsp. of white pepper
1/8 tsp. of black pepper
2 c. of grated cheese (sharp cheddar, swiss, provolone, mozzarella, fontina, etc. – definitely blend types)
1 c. of cooked meat and/or veggies (chopped bacon, ham or prosciutto, spinach, swiss chard, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions, etc.)
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a medium sized casserole or small ramekins with cooking spray or butter (I used some el cheapo parchement rounds from Sur La Table for the version in the photo above). Sprinkle 1/2 c. of the cheese on the bottom of the ramekins or casserole. Place on a cookie sheet and set aside.
In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the one cup of your choice of meat and veggies, and 1 c. of the cheese. Dump into the casserole dish or split amongst the ramekins. Using the same bowl, beat the eggs, cream, nutmeg, salt, black pepper and white pepper. Pour the custard over the bread, pushing down on the cubes to make sure that they are all saturated with the liquid. Let sit for about 5 minutes and then gently push the cubes down a second time. Top with the remaining 1/2 c. of cheese and then put the pan in the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the center is no longer jiggly and the strata has puffed up like a soufflé.
Serve hot, or wait a bit and eat at room temperature.