I’ve been making breakfast strata for several years now but I’ve never blogged about it. The first time I made them was for Nate’s birthday brunch party. It became a staple in our house after that.
Anytime we had leftover bread, it was either breakfast strata or bread pudding. The beauty of this dish is that you can put it all together the night before, then the next morning, all you need to do is preheat the oven and pop it in. This is especially useful when you’re planning a brunch party (a tradition in this house for Nate’s birthday).
This will be the first year that I’m not planning to throw Nate a brunch for his birthday. Yup, his birthday is coming around again soon. Can you guess when it is? I’ll give you a hint: He came home from the hospital in a stocking the year he was born.
I recently found out that what I called a strata can also be called a casserole. Oh well…to me a strata sounds more appealing than a casserole. Anywho… casserole, strata…what does it matta? All I know is that this is good eats.
Play Around With Your Food
The wonderful thing about this is that your filling can be anything you have lying around—some sausage, some onions, some broccoli, mushrooms, asparagus, bell peppers, whatever you want. For me, I normally have some onions, garlic and mushrooms lying around. And I almost always have home-made breakfast sausage in the freezer. I’ve also used sweet Italian sausages when I have it handy. This last time I made it, I had a little broccoli in the fridge so I decided to add that in. Play around with what you have on hand!
Once you have the meat/filling mixture and the bread, that covers two of the three layers of goodness. And the third? Well, cheese of course! Now that I’m here in Malaysia, it’s a luxury to get good cheese. I make do with whatever I can get. Right now, that means some cheddar and sometimes mozzarella (and I sometimes add a little parmesan when I have it handy). I normally grate about 2-3 cups worth of the cheeses and just generously pile it on.
The whole thing comes together with a custard that is a mixture of beaten eggs and milk (if you want to get more luxurious, you can use half and half or heavy cream). A little seasoning of salt, nutmeg or allspice, and some pepper gets this strata all ready to go.
For the bread, you should butter the bread and then lay them on your dish. The last time I did this, I got a little lazy as my butter was hard from the fridge so what I did instead was to swipe the butter on my Pyrex dish, then mop the bread on the dish to pick up the butter. Worked out good for me even if it didn’t pick up that much butter. This does double duty as you are supposed to butter the dish as well.
So I swiped, mopped, reswiped and mopped some more until all the bread was buttered. Maybe it wasn’t the best way but I felt it was easier than trying to spread hard butter on day-old bread (yes, yes, I could have microwaved the butter a little to soften it up but I thought I was being brilliant at that time).
Once you have all the layers made and prepped, it’s just a matter of layering. Start with the bread, then the cooked filling mixture, and half the grated cheese (sometimes, when I have it handy, I put a layer of bacon bits on top with the cheese—because everything tastes better with bacon ^_^). Repeat the layering and then finally pour on the custard.
Tadah! Breakfast strata all ready for the oven.
Ok, maybe not quite.
Here’s the trick—you need to let the custard really soak into the bread, just like bread pudding. So, just cover your dish and stick it in the fridge overnight to let everything soak in. If you’re not a morning person, this is perfect as you have already made breakfast. All you need to do in the morning is preheat your oven, stick the strata in to bake for an hour and breakfast is served! You could even sneak an extra hour of sleep in while you’re waiting for it to bake.
Breakfast Strata Recipe
8 slices of day old bread (good white or whole wheat bread), I don’t bother to cut off the ends but you can if you want to, buttered on one side
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
250g/8 oz bulk sausage (our breakfast sausage really works well, or sweet italian is good too)
1 large onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 cup chopped broccoli (or any other hard vegetable you like)
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning or other combination of herbs you like (sage and thyme are good if you’re using turkey sausage)
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 cups grated cheese (combination of cheddar, mozarella, parmesan or any other you like)
For the custard, combine:
3 cups milk
1 tsp ground nutmeg/allspice
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Breakfast Strata Ingredients
Make the filling:
1. In a saute pan, heat some oil over medium heat.
2. Add onions and saute till translucent but not brown, add minced garlic and saute for half a minute more.
3. Add sausage, breaking them up and saute until cooked through. Add the Italian seasonings or other herbs and spices now.
4. Once sausage is almost done, add the mushrooms and vegetables and saute for another minute or two, until green vegetables are bright green but still somewhat crunchy. You don’t want to overcook the vegetables as they will go into the oven for an hour. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Make the strata:
5. Butter a rectangular baking dish (I normally use my glass Pyrex dish but a 9×13 baking pan will work too).
6. Lay down four slices of buttered bread on the bottom.
7. Sprinkle on half of meat mixture to cover bread.
8. Sprinkle on half of cheese mixture over meat mixture.
9. Repeat layering, finishing with the rest of the cheese mixture.
10. Pour custard mixture over the layers gently. Press down on the mixture to ensure that the top layer gets the custard soaked in too.
11. Cover and put dish in the fridge overnight.
12. In the morning, preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).
13. Put strata in the oven, uncovered and bake for 55-65 minutes until top is a beautiful golden brown. If the top looks like it is getting too brown before the custard is set, cover with foil and continue to bake till done. Strata is done when you pierce with a fork and there is no runny egg mixture that oozes out.
14. Remove from oven and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting.
Finished Breakfast Strata
Oh, and by the way, this isn’t just good for breakfast. We’ve eaten it for lunch, for dinner and even for mid-afternoon. It’s as simple as cutting yourself a slice, sticking it in the microwave for a little bit to reheat and then stuffing yourself silly!