Mariana had two different kinds of Strata at the cabin in the countryside before Jeffrey’s Hampden-Sydney College graduation. Since then it has become an important breakfast dish at every family get-together. I found this recipe from Gale Gand in House Beautiful which has infinite variations, all good.
Strata is the bread pudding of savory egg dishes. This super-easy treat generally includes cubes or slices of bread that have been soaked in custard, then baked in a casserole dish or a rectangular baking pan. Strata is a great make-ahead dish. In fact, it tastes best if you prepare it the day before and let it soak overnight before baking. But if you want strata in an hour or two, go ahead because it will still be great even without the wait.
Mariana points out that the more different ingredients you add, the less likely everyone will love it. We usually stick to sausage and cheese.
5 cups of cubed French bread (with crust)
Grated cheese (see Variations)
10 large eggs
1 quart whole milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
Filling ingredients (see Variations)
Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Put the bread cubes in the dish and sprinkle them with the cheese. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, mustard, and salt. Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes. Sprinkle the filling ingredients over the egg mixture and fold them in gently. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours. (In fact you can cook it right away.)
Heat the oven to 350ºF.
Uncover the baking dish and bake for 60 minutes, until the mixture has puffed up slightly and is golden brown on top, and the strata doesn’t shimmy with uncooked custard when you shake the pan. Tent the dish with foil if the top is browning too quickly. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serve by the spoonful, using a large serving spoon.
Sausage and Cheddar Cheese
Sprinkle 1 pound of cooked crumbled sausage over the bread cubes followed by 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese.
Bacon, Cheddar, Mushroom, and Tomatoes
Sprinkle 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese over the bread cubes. Distribute 1 cup crumbled cooked bacon (6 to 8 strips), 1 cup sautéed sliced white or shiitake mushrooms, and 1 cup chopped tomatoes over the egg mixture.
Chicken, Broccoli, Green Chiles, and Monterey Jack
Sprinkle 2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese over the bread cubes. Distribute 1 cup frozen corn kernels, 1 cup cooked broccoli florets, two 4.5-ounce cans (drained) chopped green chiles, and 1/2 cup shredded cooked chicken over the egg mixture.
Ham, Swiss, and Asparagus
Sprinkle 2 cups grated Swiss cheese over the bread cubes. Distribute 1 cup blanched asparagus pieces, 1 cup cubed ham, and 1/2 cup caramelized onions (see below) over the egg mixture.
Fontina, Swiss, Spinach, and Salami
Sprinkle 2 cups Fontina cheese over the bread cubes. Distribute 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, 1 cup Italian salami (cut into matchsticks), and 1/2 cup roughly chopped roasted garlic cloves (see below) over the egg mixture.
Vegetable and Blue Cheese
Sprinkle 1 cup crumbled blue cheese over the bread cubes. Distribute 1 cup cooked cubed celery root, 1 cup sautéed sliced zucchini, and 1/2 cup sautéed sliced onions over the egg mixture.
Melt 3 tablespoons unsalted butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 large onion, thinly sliced, turn down heat to medium-low, and sauté slowly for 20 minutes, until the onion caramelizes a bit.
Heat the oven to 400ºF. Place a square of foil, large enough to make a bundle around however many bulbs of garlic you plan to roast, on a work surface. Cut about 1/4 inch off the top of the garlic bulbs and place them on the foil, cut side up. Sprinkle each bulb with about 1 teaspoon olive oil, and gather the foil to make a bundle. The bundle doesn’t need to be airtight, but it should be gathered at the top. Roast for about 1 hour, until soft. Then remove the garlic from the oven and let it cool, still bundled up, for at least 10 minutes. Open the bundle, separate the cloves, and peel them by popping the garlic out of the skins. The garlic should be soft and golden brown. Roasted garlic keeps for up to a week in an airtight container in the refrigerator.