Egg Strata Casserole

This recipe is something every cook should have in his or her repertoire. It is the most adaptable and forgiving dish in the world. It’s wonderful for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and pretty much has to be made in advance. I don’t recommend you make one much bigger than you need, as it really doesn’t hold up beyond a day after cooking, in my opinion, anyway. One batch of leftovers for me the next day from this and after that I find the bread soon gets too soft. Strata is the locavore dream dish. Put in it whatever you have on hand, or whatever is fresh and seasonal, and you’re set! I made this one with my canned tomato sauce, but you can use dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, onions, asparagus, broccoli (cut pretty small!), spinach, mushrooms, cooked cubed or sliced potatoes or corn. It’s a great recipe for farmers’ market and CSA* eggs. It seems I never get the same size eggs two weeks in a row, and there is a big difference in the volume of a small egg vs. a jumbo one. Here, you go by proportions, and even at that, if you are short or long on egg, it really won’t matter much. Use any cheese you like in a strata. Try fresh goat cheese or feta, or a few crumbles of a blue cheese mixed in with something more mild. (You want your cheese selection to have some pungency to it, but too much blue cheese is overpowering). Make it all vegetarian, or use a little sausage—breakfast-style, Italian, chorizo, andouille, whatever you like. Here, I used zesty Italian sausage from Misty Meadows farm and went for a bit of a pizza flavor with my cheese and vegetable combination. It’s surprising how little sausage you need to get the flavor, which makes this an even more economical dish. You can make strata with sliced bread, but I like to make herbed bread cubes to up the flavor. My recipe for croutons follows the strata recipe.
By | May 01, 2011

Instructions

  1. Butter an 8- by 8- by 2-inch glass baking dish. Whisk eggs and milk in large pourable cup; add salt and pepper. Set aside. Mix the cheeses together.
  2. Heat a splash of cooking oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, if using. Stir until softened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add sausage to skillet and brown, breaking up sausage with fork, until sausage is cooked through. Drain fat from the pan if necessary. Add the spinach and garlic and stir until the spinach is just wilted. Arrange half of bread cubes in prepared dish. Sprinkle half of the sausage mixture over the bread. Sprinkle or dollop half of the herbs or pesto. Add dollops of tomato sauce (use only very thick sauce, as you don’t want to water down the dish.) Sprinkle with half the cheese. Repeat layering. Gently press on the top to submerge the dish into the egg mixture. If it seems like you don’t have enough egg mixture, mix another egg with about 1/3 cup milk and add to dish. Let stand at least 20 minutes, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. If chilled, take it out of the refrigerator at least ½ hour before baking. Preheat oven to 350. Bake strata until puffed and brown, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8, depending on how many sides are with the meal.
  3. You can double the recipe easily to make it in a 9- by 12-inch pan. You’ll probably need 1½ loaves of bread if you are using slices. Use two kinds for even more flavor. Challah or whole wheat add some nice interest, but they are rather sweet, so I don’t like to use them alone in this. Potato bread is great if you can find it.

* CSA: community-supported agriculture is a pre-paid subscription food delivery system. For more information go to www.localharvest.org/csa.

TOMESE'S CROUTONS

You’ll have more croutons than you need for a strata (as above) made in an 8- by 8-inch pan, but believe me, they won’t go to waste. If you double the strata recipe and make it in a 9- by 13-inch pan, you’ll need the whole amount of croutons made below. After you have these, you’ll never buy boxed croutons again.

Preheat oven to 425°. Mix together the oil, garlic and herbs in a pourable cup. Put the bread cubes in a large bowl and drizzle the oil/herb mixture over, trying to stir while pouring to have as equal distribution as possible. Toss the cubes for a minute, and spread on a baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, stir the cubes and bake for 5 more minutes. Repeat the stirring and baking as needed, but watch closely, as they will burn very quickly. You want them evenly browned, but a little under-brown is better than burned. You can make these days ahead, store in an airtight container.

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs, or enough to make a generous cup (have another one or two in reserve in case you need them)
  • 1 generous cup whole milk (add a splash of whipping cream or half-n-half if you have it on hand) (plus more if necessary)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped, optional
  • 1/2 pound hot or sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 1/2 pound fresh spinach
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 quart bread cubes (about 1-inch cubed), lightly toasted
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or basil or prepared basil pesto, or any herb combination you like
  • 1 generous cup thick tomato sauce
  • 1 cup grated cheese (Kenny’s Norwood is excellent)
  • 1 cup grated asiago cheese
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