Strata: The fancy breakfast casserole

Published 6:00 am Sunday, January 16, 2022

By Jennie Guido

Have I mentioned how much I love breakfast food? It’s a staple for me and usually the only item that fills my pantry and refrigerator. Last week, I was feeling under the weather and loaded up at the grocery store with all of the essentials: cans of cinnamon rolls, bags of frozen biscuits, strawberry jam, and cereal. It’s comfort food for me, and I would eat it three times a day.

This year’s menu for Christmas Eve was like any other at my house. It was Pinterest driven and breakfast themed. I searched for something new and different that wouldn’t scare off my dad’s taste buds too much, and I found just the thing to try: Strata.

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If you’ve watched The Family Stone, you’re familiar with this breakfast casserole. It’s bread, vegetables, and cheese layered in a baking dish and covered in an eggy custard. While the one from the movie features mushrooms and white bread cut into Christmas shapes, I decided to go for a spinach version with a loaf of French bread.

You really could use just about any vegetable combination here. I think bell peppers would have been yummy and maybe even fresh squash and zucchini in the summertime. If you have to have meat, you could brown some sausage and add to the layers. I just like the idea of a veggie only casserole.

 

Spinach and cheese strata

1 pound bag chopped frozen spinach, thawed

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 large yellow onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

8 cups French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 1/2 cups white cheddar, grated

2/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

9 large eggs

2 3/4 cups half-and-half

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

 

Squeeze handfuls of spinach to remove as much liquid as possible. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and drained spinach and cook 2 minutes more. Set aside.

Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Spread one third of the bread cubes in the dish and top evenly with one third of spinach mixture. Sprinkle with one third of each cheese. Repeat layering, ending with cheeses.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the half-and-half, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and whisk until well combined. Pour the custard mixture evenly over the strata. Cover the strata with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Bake the strata in a 325-degree oven, uncovered, until puffed, set, and golden brown all over top, about an hour if you’ve allowed for the dish to come to room temperature.