Author: Celia Spivack
Recipe type: Entree, Main
Yield: 10 main dish servings
Strata is a fancy name for a casserole of bread, milk, eggs, cheese, and ingredients that flavor the custardy result, allowing you to make it in a different version every time. This is an excellent breakfast buffet item during the holidays because it can be assembled the night before, refrigerated and put in the oven about an hour before you intend to serve it. It is reminiscent of quiche, but without the high-calorie, time-intensive crust. It can easily be made in a quantity suitable for a large group. In this case, the well-known Quiche Lorraine was the inspiration for the dish. Reduced-fat Jarlsberg Swiss cheese, sautéed onions, and bacon are the basis for preparing this flavorful casserole. Some recipes call for layering the ingredients, which is why it got the name “strata”, but layering is not necessary. Once again, this is a base recipe that you can alter to your taste and the occasion. You can switch out the type of cheese you use, the type of bread you use, the meat you choose (or no meat), the vegetables you add, the seasoning, etc. You can make the dish richer by using full-fat cheese or half and half to replace the milk. I especially enjoy a vegetarian version made with sautéed mushrooms and blanched broccoli. A Mexican-inspired version that reminds me of chiles rellenos can be made with green chiles and a mixture of Jack and Cheddar cheeses, served topped with a spicy tomato sauce.
- 1 large onion
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 pound loaf of bread (Butter-top wheat works well)
- 1 pound Jarlesberg reduced-fat cheese
- 1 cup bacon bits
- 9 eggs
- 3 cups milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 3 quart casserole dish, such as a Pyrex 9x13 pan. Cut the onion into 1/4 inch dice. Sauté in the butter over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes until the onion caramelizes and becomes golden and sweet. While the onion is cooking, dice the cheese into small pieces (or grate it if it is a single piece) and place in a large bowl. Cut the bread into 1/2 inch dice and add to the bowl. Add the bacon bits and black pepper. Add the sautéed onions. Mix to distribute the ingredients. Pour into the baking dish.
- Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl. Mix in the salt and the milk. Pour the liquid gently over the bread mixture and press the bread lightly into the dish to distribute the moisture evenly. At this point, you can cover the dish with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until the next day. Remove from the refrigerator and bake in a 350 degree F. oven until puffed and golden, about 50 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes.