I miss brunch and once we get back to normal it’s going to be the first meal we host. I love the laidback atmosphere, the mix of sweet and savory dishes, plates filled with cold things like fruit and hot treats right out of the oven. Of course, we always have coffee, bloody Mary’s and mimosas. So many combinations for a great brunch but I love to have bagels with a full assortment of spreads including butter, vegetable cream cheese, plain cream cheese, red onions, capers, tomatoes and everything bagel seasoning. Add in some fruit (especially berries if in season), yogurt, muffins and you’ve got the start of a great menu. From a savory standpoint I always include some kind of egg dish but I really don’t have much interest standing at the stove laboring over the perfect batch of eggs. For a small group I may do a quiche but if you have a larger group and/or want something hearty then my Savory Breakfast Strata is what you’re looking for. The best part is you assemble it the night before your brunch and pop it in the oven just before your guests arrive the next day. My kind of entertaining!
In simple terms, a strata is a bread pudding/casserole that starts with a great loaf of bread. You need a hearty loaf that you can cut into one-inch cubes. I tend to use breads like challah or sourdough but any rustic loaf will work. Depending on the loaf, I cut off some of the crust which can get a bit too crispy or burnt while cooking. A flavorful custard of eggs, milk and seasonings along with lots of cheese and either ham, sausage or bacon and you’ve got a great brunch dish. You can customize this with your favorite bread, cheese and meat and you can’t go wrong. You can also swap some veggies for the meat if you want a vegetarian version or add them to pump up the flavors. Since you prep it the day before you bake and serve it, the strata is a great dish to bring to a friend’s brunch or for someone who needs a break from cooking.
1 Loaf of bread (challah, sourdough, etc.)
3 cups Shredded cheese (a combination of cheddar, swiss, gruyere works well)
1 cup Grated parmesan cheese
4 Eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup Whole milk
1 cup Light cream
1 tsp Salt
½ tbs Dry mustard
¼ tsp Cayenne pepper
½ tsp White pepper
3 – 4 cups Sausage, bacon or ham (cooked and cut into bite sized pieces)
Cut bread into one-inch pieces. In a casserole dish (you can use an oval, square or rectangular dish like you would use for a lasagna) spread one layer of bread and top with 1 1/2 cups each cheese and meat (I used sausage this particular time) and then repeat with another layer of bread, cheese and meat. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, cream, parmesan, salt, pepper and mustard and mix well and then pour over the dish ensuring it is well distributed. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 and remove the strata from the refrigerator, letting it sit for about 20 minutes. Bake uncovered till puffy and browned, approximately 45 minutes.