My family is not very big on breakfast. We love breakfast foods. We just don’t like getting up in the morning any earlier than we have to. Yeah, I know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, blah, blah, blah. And, we usually do eat some kind of breakfast. Except that sometimes, we eat it for dinner. Doesn’t that count? I mean, it’s still breakfast food – right?
A typical morning meal at our house usually consists of yogurt, cereal or bagels. Not very inspired, I admit, but it gets the job done. On Saturdays, Mr. SGCC will sometimes make us poached eggs with the special egg poaching pot I got him for Christmas a few years ago. Buying him that pot was a brilliant move on my part. Before that, the only thing Mr. SGCC ever cooked up was trouble!
One breakfast-y recipe that I love for both breakfast and dinner is a strata. A strata is casserole made with bread, eggs and whatever cheese, meats or vegetables you feel like putting into it. Think of it as a savory bread pudding. The best thing about a strata is that it’s meant to be made in advance. In fact, it really must be put together and allowed to sit for several hours before baking. Overnight is even better. This is perfect for non-morning people like me, because if I want to serve a strata for breakfast, I make it the night before and just pop it in the oven the next morning. Likewise, if I want to serve it for dinner, I can mix it up in the morning before I start my day, and bake it when I get home.
When it comes to a strata, almost anything goes. As I mentioned above, you can literally put whatever you want into it. It’s a great way to use up any leftover meat, cheese or veggies lurking in your fridge. Once, I even made one with shrimp and smoked salmon. (Oooh! That was a good one! Remind me to share it with you someday.) This time, I added onions and some deli ham that had overstayed its welcome.
The process for making a strata couldn’t be simpler. You just layer the bread and other add-ins in a casserole dish, drown them in a mix of eggs and milk and let the whole thing sit until you’re ready for it. The bread soaks up all of the custard and gets all puffy and golden as it bakes. Inside, the strata is a mass of cheesy, eggy goodness. Whether served for breakfast, lunch or dinner, a strata makes a light, but satisfying and delicious meal.
Anytime Egg, Ham and Cheese Strata
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium sweet onion, diced
- 4 ounces thinly sliced deli ham, cut into strips
- 10 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black or white pepper
- 1 large loaf rustic Italian or French bread, crust removed and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
- Lightly butter a 3-quart ceramic baking dish with at least 2-inch high sides.
- Sauté onion in butter over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Mix in ham and continue cooking for two minutes more. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Combine the cheeses together in a bowl and set aside.
- Place a third of the bread cubes in the baking dish. Top with a half the ham/onion mixture and a third of the cheese. Add another third of the bread cubes and top with the remaining ham/onion mixture and another third of the cheese. Scatter on the remaining bread cubes and top with the rest of the cheese.
- Whisk together the eggs, milk, mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl. Pour over the strata and let it chill in the fridge, covered, for several hours or overnight.
- When ready to bake, let strata sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Bake, uncovered, on the center rack of the oven until puffed and golden brown, about 40-45 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.