A Strata is perfect entertaining fare for breakfast, brunch or lunch. The essence of a Make-Ahead Brunch Strata (casserole) is eggs, milk, cheese and bread. The personality comes from the fillings – choose the ones you like. Assemble the night before. Pop it in the oven the next day for a great comfort food dish.
This is a simple ‘make it you own’ strata recipe. You can stick to the basic core ingredients and serve it with a topping or you can choose a few fillings that will suit your guests, what you have on hand or how easy you want to make it on yourself. Even the basic ingredients can be varied such as the bread, milk/cream and cheeses.
Benefits for entertaining: The biggest benefit of a strata is being able to assemble the whole thing the day before, allowing you to concentrate on other tasks for your breakfast or lunch the next day. The other plus is being able to divide the basic mixture with different fillings into two different casseroles to cater to different tastes. I did this the other day with my daughter (the other kook) who is a vegetarian and her husband who is not. The pictures below show the ingredients I used for both.
The recipes on the internet are very similar for strata. I scoured many of them for good tips to share along with the trick I discovered on my own. Most recipes will tell you to layer the bread, cheese and fillings, then pour the egg-milk mixture on top, pushing things around to make sure everything is covered. My trick (I like to get from point A to point B the fastest way possible) is to combine the entire mixture in one bowl, then spoon it into the casserole dish. Much easier.
Tailor To Your Taste
- Bread options: anything goes including using crusts or no crusts. I used Challah in the pictures you see. Most use a large Italian bread, but pumpernickel, french bread, brioche will also work well – even gluten free bread.
- Cheese options: I used a Gruyere and Parmesan combination. Also try Cheddar, Fontina, Mozzarella, Monterey Jack. If you really love cheese, feel free to add more.
- Liquid: use any combination of milk and cream (depending on the level of richness you like) – and any type of milk.
- Fillings: caramelized or sauteed onions, spinach, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, bacon, ham, sausage. All fillings should be cooked except asparagus (which will have enough time to cook in the oven if not too thick and green onions). Crumbled goat cheese can be added as well.
- Seasonings: I used thyme, Dijon mustard. salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg. You could also try paprika, a bit of hot sauce, rosemary, marjoram, dry mustard.
- Toppings: If you just stick to a no-filling strata (almost like a savoury bread pudding), you can use toppings to enhance the flavours such as a chutney or sour cream with chives.
Tips for Brunch Strata Recipe
- For 10-15 minutes less baking time, remove casseroles from fridge a let sit on counter for 20-30 minutes before baking.
- You can skip the make-ahead step in the fridge and make the strata the same day. Just let the entire mixture sit for about 20-30 minutes before baking to allow time for the bread to absorb all the liquid.
- The length of cooking depends on how thick the strata is in the pan. The strata is ready when it doesn’t jiggle in the centre when you move it or when a toothpick comes out clean. Try not to overcook the strata or it will become dry.
- Use pre-grated cheeses.
- Use fillings that don’t need to be cooked (e.g. asparagus, green onions) or that are pre-cooked like ham.
- See instructions in the recipe for make-ahead. See “tips” if you prefer to bake it right away.
Make-Ahead Brunch Strata Recipe
The essence of a Make-Ahead Brunch Strata is eggs, milk, cheese and bread. The personality comes from the fillings you add - choose the ones you like. Assemble the night before. Pop it in the oven the next day. Perfect for entertaining.
- 8 cup bread, any kind, cut into 1 inch cubes (3/4 large loaf, 11-12 slices, 12 ounces)
- 8 large eggs (about 2 cups)
- 2 3/4 cup milk or half and half cream (or any combination of the two)
- 1 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese (6 ounces)
- 1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)
Fillings (choose 2-3)
- 10 ounce package chopped frozen spinach; 1 large onion; 8 -10 breakfast sausage links; 8 slices bacon; 2 cups diced cooked ham; 16 ounces mushrooms chopped; 1/2 cup green onion chopped.
- PREPARE PANS: Butter or spray with oil one 9x13 inch (3 quart) dish or two 8x8 (2 quart) pans.
- PREPARE FILLINGS: Choose 2-3 options. For vegetarian strata, I use spinach, onions, mushrooms. For meat-based, I use sausage, onions, spinach. Spinach: Defrost and squeeze water out using hands or paper towels. Get as much water out as possible. Onions: Dice or process onion. Saute in 2 teaspoons oil on medium until translucent (or cook 25-30 minutes, stirring, to caramelize, adding 1/2 teaspoon sugar to speed up caramelization). Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Mushroooms: Saute in butter or oil for 5-7 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and garlic powder. Sausage: Pan fry or grill until no longer pink. Cut into small pieces. Or remove from casings and saute ground sausage until cooked. Bacon: Fry or microwave. Or bake at 400F for 18-20 minutes. Crumble. Green Onions or Ham: Chop. No need to cook.
- PREPARE CORE INGREDIENTS: Cut bread (with or without crusts) into 1 inch cubes. Measure 8 cups packed. Place in large bowl. In separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and all seasonings. Grate cheeses.
- ASSEMBLE AND REFRIGERATE: Add to large bowl with bread: the egg-milk-seasoning mixture; the vegetable filling; and cheeses (reserving 1/2 cup cheese to sprinkle on top). Mix lightly to combine well. Pour into prepared pan(s). Sprinkle on remaining cheese. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for an hour (or more) or overnight.
- BAKE AND SERVE: Heat oven to 350F. Remove strata from fridge. Uncover and bake for 40-50 minutes until puffed and golden brown on top - and just until the centre doesn't jiggle when you shake the pan. Toothpick inserted in centre should come out clean. If using a slightly bigger pan, bake 5-10 minutes less as strata will be thinner. Serve warm. Garnish with sour cream if desired.
Here are a few other breakfast/brunch items you might enjoy
Baked Carrot Cake Oatmeal Breakfast Squares get the recipe
Make-Ahead Baked Apple and Pear French Toast get the recipe
Make-ahead Breakfast Burritos With Caramelized Onions get the recipe
This recipe was inspired by Epicurious, Once Upon a Chef and The Chunky Chef.