If there's one thing we love around here, it's simple, easy do-ahead preparations. Especially when it's something that I'm making for a cookout, brunch or, well... any gathering with friends and family.
This Strata is no exception. I think I've made it for Easter brunch for the last 15 years, at least and it's a big hit every year. What's not to like about a warm, fluffy bread and egg dish loaded with luscious meats, gooey cheeses and savory herbs and veggies? It's almost like an entire breakfast buffet in a baking dish! LOL I started years ago, with a basic recipe that I saw on TV or read in a magazine and just tweaked it here and there over time, to suit my friend's and family's tastes.
I make it a little bit differently each year, depending on my mood and frankly, what I have in the fridge. Who wants to run to the store for a bunch of ingredients when you have lots of goodies already on hand? Kind of defeats the purpose of doing it ahead, right? That's the beauty of a Strata. You can make it according to my exact recipe, or you can go with the basic elements and change up the other ingredients according to your own tastes or what's in your fridge. Easy peasy!
Sausage, Bell Pepper and Leek Strata
- 1 Loaf Soft Crusted Italian Bread, cubed
- 1 Lb Bulk Breakfast Sausage
- 12 Lg Eggs
- 1 Red/Green Bell Pepper, chopped
- 1 Lg Leek, rinsed well and chopped
- 3 Cups Cheddar Cheese, shredded
- Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees
Brown the sausage in a medium skillet, breaking it up well as it cooks. When it's cooked through (no longer pink) and nicely browned, remove it to a bowl or plate with a slotted spoon and set it aside to cool a bit. Bacon, ham or a combination of breakfast meats also work well in this dish. It's up to you!
To the skillet that you cooked the sausage in, add your chopped bell peppers and leeks and cook them for just a few minutes, until they are just beginning to soften, but not caramelize too much. Season them with a little salt & pepper. Remove to a plate, set aside and allow to cool a bit. (I used a very lean sausage, so there wasn't really much in terms of drippings left in the pan after cooking. I added a teaspoon or so of light olive oil to cook the veggies)
While your meat and veggies are cooling, cut/slice your bread into large cubes. You can use a crustier bread, but I prefer something with a softer crust for this dish, so that it doesn't dry out in the oven. You could also remove the crust entirely if you prefer.
Shred your cheese and set it aside, separating it into two parts ~ 2 Cups for the base of the dish and 1 Cup for the top. You can use any cheese that you like in this, depending on your taste. I will often use Swiss, Monterrey Jack or Fontina and if I'm in the mood, I'll use a combination of cheeses. It's a great way to use up those smaller, leftover hunks of cheese in the fridge.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk your eggs, milk, salt & pepper (to taste). You can also add fresh herbs, if you have them or dried herbs of your choice. Set aside until you're ready to assemble the Strata.
Layer your bread cubes, cooked meat(s) and vegetables and 2 Cups of the cheese in a large baking dish or casserole. I mix it up a bit with my hands to distribute all of the ingredients more evenly.
Pour your egg and milk mixture over the combined ingredients and press it all down a bit with a spatula or the back of a spoon, so that the bread soaks up as much of the liquid as possible. At this point, you can cover it tightly with plastic wrap or a tight fitting lid and refrigerate it overnight. In a pinch, or if you don't get the chance to make it the night before, you can prepare it and cook it the same day, but I would suggest that you refrigerate it for an hour or so before baking, if you do. The longer it rests and has a chance to soak up the egg mixture, the more moist it will be when it's finished cooking. (especially if your bread is a couple of days old)
Add the final 1 Cup of cheese to the top just before putting it into the oven. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 to 45 minutes, depending on your oven and the size of your dish. I would check it at about 35 minutes if you are using a more shallow dish. It's done when the top is golden brown and the center is set.
Allow the Strata to cool just a little, before serving. Especially if you want to cut it into squares for serving. I usually just put a large serving spoon in the dish and let people serve themselves from the table or buffet. This is excellent when it's reheated the next day too. Aside from being a great brunch dish, it also makes a wonderful lunch or light supper with a salad of mixed greens and fresh veggies or with a fresh seasonal fruit on the side. Enjoy!
My Asparagus and Bacon Quiche was featured this week at Full Plate Thursdays, hosted by the lovely and gracious Miz Helen, at Miz Helen's Country Cottage!
You'll find me linking up with any/all of these great parties this week:
Please Note: Due to having too many linky party codes floating around in my notes, my list has lost a few buttons here and there during editing. I believe that I now have it updated and corrected, so if you are a hostess of one of the amazing parties that I link up with every week and your button/link has not been here in past weeks, please accept my most sincere apologies and I hope that you will forgive this menopause addled brain of mine! LOL