I love an easy recipe. One that takes little time and fills many tummies. Something you can make a day ahead, put in the refrigerator and bake on the day so it’s fresh and hot and fabulous. Stratas are great for any time of day, but they’re particularly good for solving the breakfast/brunch/lunch question of what to serve that won’t be as finicky or terrifying as individual omelets or as time-consuming as multiple offerings. Somewhere in-between a quiche and savory French toast, they define comfort food. And what I probably love most about them is they help use up day-old bread.
I used what I had in the fridge for the filling, but this is a very versatile recipe, so you can use what you like.
Anything Goes Strata (serves 6)
The strata needs to be refrigerated overnight before baking, so keep that in mind.
1 loaf of bread–use something with backbone like a chewy Italian or French loaf, cut into 1-inch cubes–I know loaves come is very different sizes–you’re looking for about 6 full rounded cups (1-1/2 liters).
For the custard:
1-1/3 cups (320ml) whole milk or half and half–don’t use low fat milk
5 large eggs, room temperature
Salt and black pepper
Suggestions below for other fillings and flavorings, but use your judgement on what goes well together.
For the filling:
4 oz. (115g) Canadian bacon, cubed
4 oz. (115g) sharp cheddar, grated
2 handfuls fresh spinach, julienned
1/3 cup (80ml) cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Unsalted butter, softened or olive oil
If changing up the ingredients shoot for similar amounts. It should all come out to about 3 cups (720ml) or so of filling. The meat, any veg, and cheese should be enough to provide a good layer each. Other ingredients, like tomatoes, olives, or anything pungent or spicy can be left to a sprinkling.
Green onions, tomatoes, grated vegetables, leafy greens can be left raw, but others like potatoes, carrots, squash should be cooked because they’re not going to get any surface heat when cooking in the custard/bread and will likely remain tough, raw and colorless. Things like onions, mushrooms and pepper are up to you–if you like the crunch or texture of the raw, leave them so, otherwise cook them.
You want any meat you use to be cooked. This is a great way to get rid of leftovers all around. Steak, ham, corned beef, sausage, etc., but you could also use tofu. If using a meat substitute, I might pan fry it first to make sure it doesn’t get too mushy when cooked in the custard.
Suggestions for other filling combinations:
- Ham, Swiss, arugula, green onions
- Sweet or spicy Italian sausage, arugula, mozzarella, tomatoes, olives and onions
- Pepperoni, sun dried tomatoes (in olive oil), smoked mozzarella, green bell peppers
- Roast beef or ground beef, cheddar, caramelized onions, 1/4 teaspoon of dry mustard in the custard or a dollop of Dijon
- Bacon, green bell pepper, mushrooms, onions, cheddar and a few dashes of hot sauce in the custard
You can take it from here…
Make sure to use a pan deep enough to hold the ingredients with room for rising. The strata will puff up as it cooks so make sure there’s a half inch or so between the top of the ingredients and the edge of the dish.
Grease the pan with butter or olive oil and set aside.
Combine the milk and eggs in a bowl and whisk together. Add a few grind of black pepper. If you like a lot of pepper, add a lot. I didn’t add salt because I was using salty bacon. If you’re using mild filling ingredients, add a few pinches of salt.
In a large bowl, with your ever so clean and spotless hands, toss the bread cubes with half the milk mixture, making sure all the bread is coated. Spread the bread cubes evenly across the bottom of the greased pan.
Sprinkle the bacon evenly over the bread. Then the spinach, then tomatoes and finish with the cheese. Pour the remaining custard evenly over the filling. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Let the strata sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking. Bake at 350F/175C degrees for about 40 minutes, or until it is golden brown and puffy. If you increase the recipe, you might have to bake it longer.
The strata can be served hot, at room temperature or cold, just like quiche.