Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability. ~Edsger Dijkstra
A strata is a savory bread pudding made by combining dense textured bread with eggs and milk, and baking until the custard has set.
It’s a great way to use up stale bread, and one simple recipe can form the basis for countless variations.
This Easy Make-Ahead (Meatless) Strata is a sturdy and filling dish that yields 8 ample dinner servings. Even with the addition of full cream and cheese this dish comes in at well under a dollar per serving in my (rather expensive) corner of the country, so it’s still a frugal meal.
The key to a good strata is the bread. It needs to be dense enough so that it can absorb the eggs and milk without getting mushy. I usually use slightly stale bread from the discount shelf at a local bakery. A more ‘artisanal’ style bread is a good choice.
The Swiss cheese adds a nuttiness that you won’t get with Cheddar or Parmesan, and helps make this simple dish special.
You can prepare this up to 24 hours in advance and refrigerate until you are ready to to bake it. If you are baking it cold from the fridge, you’ll need an additional 10 minutes of covered baking time.
You can serve this for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.
It’s always easy and reliable.
- 1 loaf of a dense textured bread- at least one day old cut into large cubes (about 8 cups / 2 liters of cubes)
- 1 medium onion finely chopped (about 1 cup / 250 ml)
- 2 cloves garlic finely minced
- 1 tablespoon / 15 ml vegetable oil
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup / 250 ml milk
- 1 cup / 250 ml cream
- 1 teaspoon / 5 ml salt
- 1/4 teaspoon / 1.25 ml pepper
- 1 cup / 250 ml grated Swiss cheese Gruyere or Emmenthal
If you are planning to cook the strata right away, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F / 177 degrees C. Lightly grease a 9x9-inch / 23x23-cm baking dish.
Place bread cubes in large mixing bowl.
Heat a frypan over medium-low heat. Add vegetable oil and swirl to coat pan. Add onions and cook for 2-3 minutes until onions are soft. Do not let them brown. If the onions start to brown, turn down the heat.
Add minced garlic and cook for 1-2 more minutes until the garlic is soft. Do not let the garlic brown.
Add onions and garlic to bread, and toss to combine.
In separate bowl, beat together eggs, milk, cream, salt and pepper.
Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes.
Sprinkle grated cheese over the bread and eggs, then toss to combine the ingredients.
Let sit for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally to give bread a chance to absorb the egg mixture.
Spoon bread into prepared pan, and pour any remaining egg mixture over the bread.
Cover loosely with aluminum foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove tinfoil and bake for 10 minutes more, or until top is lightly browned and feels firm to touch. (It is better to let it be slightly underdone than overcooked, as the heat from the dish will continue to cook it when it is removed from the oven.)
Remove from oven and let strata sit for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.
This recipe can be adapted to include any of your favorite ingredients. You can also reduce the eggs from 8 to 6 if you prefer. You can use different types of bread, but the bread needs to be dense so that it is sturdy enough and doesn't become mushy when the eggs are added.
You can lighten the dish up by using all milk instead of milk and cream, or by reducing the cream by 1/2 a cup and replacing it with milk.
If you are serving this strata after refrigerating for several hours, preheat the oven, remove strata from fridge and bake. Add 10 minutes to the covered baking time.
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