Saturday, January 18, 2014

Strata - The Best Way to Wake Up with Day Old Bread - January 18, 2014

My husband's family has a strata tradition on Christmas and New Years mornings.  I had never heard of strata which is a breakfast casserole using bread usually soaked in egg and milk.  The best two things about strata in my opinion are that you actually have to make them the night before so there is no fancy cooking in the morning and that they are a great way to use up both day old bread and eggs if you have too much of either.  Once you see these recipes, you can also riff on them and find ways to use up other things like various cheeses, milk or cream and meats or veggies you think would be good.  I can imagine roasted peppers and corn as a great additions for example.

I'll start with the Harris family traditional strata.  It is sausage cheese and while I am not a fan of fake sausage, you can replace the sausage with it or turkey sausage.  This year, we also added a crab strata.  I actually thought it was a bit too rich, so I have adapted the recipe here to replace some of the half and half with milk.  You can go the other way of you prefer.  Because it is in a smaller deeper casserole, it had little of the bread sticking up to get cripsy, so you might want to add a little less of the egg/milk mixture also to allow some more bread to stick up.  I hope you enjoy both.  If you're having a brunch or opening presents, it is a great breakfast to just pop in the oven and it's ready when you're finished getting dressed.  We serve it with a big fruit salad.

Sausage Cheese Strata
1 lb. browned hot breakfast sausage
8 slices day old white bread, cut in cubes
3/4 c. grated Monterrey Jack cheese
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Dijon
pinch Cayenne
1/2 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
3 T. melted butter

Grease 9 x 13 casserole dish.  Put in half the bread followed by half the sausage and cheese. Add another layer of each in the same order.  Whisk all remaining ingredients except butter and pour over casserole.  Drizzle with butter.  Cover and chill overnight.  

In the morning, remove from fridge and let sit 45 minutes while preheating oven to 350 degrees. Bake in water bath for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes.

Crab Strata
8-10 slices of day old French Bread (cut in 1/2 inch thick cubes)

3 T.  butter, softened
4 shallots, minced
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 to 1 1/2 c. lump crab meat
6 oz Gruyere cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 large eggs
1 3/4 cups half-and-half (or one c. milk and ¾ c. half and half)

Heat 2 T. butter in nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Saute shallots 3 minutes.  Add spinach and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes.  Set aside.  Add wine to skillet, increase heat to medium high and simmer until reduced to 1/4 cup.  Set aside.

Butter 8 inch square baking dish with remaining T. butter.  Arrange half the buttered bread slices in single layer in dish.  Sprinkle half of crab and then spinach mixture, then 1/2 cup grated cheese evenly over bread slices. Arrange remaining bread slices in single layer over cheese; sprinkle remaining spinach mixture and remaining crab and another 1/2 cup cheese evenly over bread. Whisk eggs in medium bowl until combined; whisk in reduced wine, milk and half and half, 1 tsp. salt, and pepper to taste.  Pour egg mixture over bread layers, cover  and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, take strata out of fridge and let stand at least 20 minutes while preheating oven to 325 degrees.  Uncover strata and sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Bake 50-55 minutes.  Cool and serve.

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