Saturday Summer Strata
Serves 6 or more
Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso introduced us to stratas in their popular 1984 Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. We've tinkered ever since then with our version of their Basil Breakfast Strata, which they presented as a front-porch summer brunch dish. This is our current rendition, a big favorite with the Glow Club, Cheryl's Saturday-morning women's running group.
One 1 to 1-1/4 pound loaf country or sourdough
bread, crusts removed if thick
1/2 pound cream cheese or St. Andre cheese
(rind removed), cut into small cubes or bits
1/2 pound fresh or other mozzarella,
cut into small pieces or grated
1/4 cup prepared pesto
6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
1 pound (about 3 medium) red, ripe tomatoes,
5 large eggs
1-1/2 cups milk or half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly milled black pepper to taste
Oil or butter a deep 9- to 10-inch baking dish.
Slice the bread about 1/2 inch thick. Arrange 2 to 3 equal alternating layers of the bread, cheeses, pesto, prosciutto, and tomatoes in the baking dish. Cut or tear bread slices if needed to make snug layers.
Whisk the eggs with the milk, salt, and pepper. Pour the custard over the bread mixture. Cover and refrigerate the strata for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Remove the strata from the refrigerator 20 to 30 minutes before you plan to bake it.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the strata for 50 to 55 minutes, until puffed, golden brown, and lightly set in the center. Serve hot.
The wealth of specialty breads available today encourages experimentation with stratas. Just pick a variety compatible with the cheese and any embellishments you are considering, removing the crust if it's thick. Egg-rich challah, brioche, and Italian panettone offer resonant alternatives. Cakey corn breads can turn to mush in a strata, but sturdier southern-style versions work well, particularly when toasted first to improve the texture. Even soft white bread makes a good strata, though we like to layer it with a darker whole grain bread to enhance the taste and appearance.
Eliminate the pesto and tomatoes. Sauté 1/2 pound sliced mushrooms, 1 or 2 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, and 3/4 pound fresh spinach, chard, or escarole in 3 tablespoons olive oil until the mushrooms are tender and any liquid has evaporated. Arrange alternating layers of the bread, cheeses, prosciutto, and mushroom mixture and proceed as directed.
A Real American Breakfast
The Best Meal of the Day, Any Time of the Day
By Cheryl Atlers Jamison and Bill Jamison
Morrow Cookbooks/HarperCollins Publishers
Copyright 2002. All rights reserved
Hardcover, 464 pages
$34.95; $52.95 (CAN)
Recipe reprinted by permission.
A Real American Breakfast
This page created April 2002