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Make-ahead breakfast strata
recipe

Anne Byrn's Make-Ahead Breakfast Strata

Serves: 6 to 8

Hands On Time: 

Total Time: 

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
10 slices soft Italian-style bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
1 cup (4 ounces) finely minced ham, if desired
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 cups milk, preferably whole (see note)
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch of cayenne or nutmeg, if desired
1 cup crushed Ritz or buttery round crackers (about 16 crackers)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Instructions

Lightly grease a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with nonstick oil spray.

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables soften, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Scatter half of the bread cubes in the baking dish. Top with the ham, if desired, followed by the cheeses and the onion and pepper mixture. Cover with the remaining bread cubes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, mustard and cayenne, if desired. Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes and press down to submerge them in the liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the baking dish from the fridge and discard the plastic wrap.

In a small bowl, toss the cracker crumbs with the melted butter. Using your fingers, scatter the crumb mixture over the top of the soaked bread cubes. Bake until golden brown, about 1 hour. Serve at once.

Photo: Danielle Atkins


About the recipe

The real upside to this recipe is that it is money in the bank. It is sitting there all prepped in the fridge, and all you have to do on Christmas or New Year's morning is just pop it in the oven. Get everyone to the table, because in about an hour the strata will puff up, turn golden-brown and look fabulously important. And then it will slightly fall, but nevertheless, be just as delicious.

This recipe works because the eggs and milk mixture soak well into the bread overnight. The bread is the binder, and the eggs provide the boost to help the casserole rise. Anything you add to the casserole outside of the eggs, milk and bread is flavoring and color. The best bread to use is anything soft and spongy. Cut off the crust for a softer consistency, or leave some crust on for texture. As for the milk, use whole milk for a creamier casserole. But if you don't have it, you can use skim or reduced-fat milk and add a splash of heavy cream. The rest is up to you. Saute the extra veggies in the fridge. Use your favorite combination of cheeses. And then cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, simply preheat the oven, uncover the casserole, scatter buttered cracker crumbs on top of the casserole, and bake.

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