A Savory Strata Shines for Breakfast
To start the New Year with a great breakfast, let’s make a dish that is smart and festive. I suggest a strata, kind of a cross between French toast, which always feels festive, and a baked casserole. This savory dish includes whole grain, eggs and milk – like in French toast – plus a layer of dark leafy greens. The greens help you get a good start on vegetable servings for the day and make a delicious surprise.
Making a strata requires a span of time, but you are not actively involved for most of it. Dry bread is best for making a strata, so I start by leaving out slices to dry, which takes only 5 minutes to set up. The other big chunk of passive preparation time is letting the strata soak in the refrigerator.
I find the ideal flow is to lay out the bread in the morning the day before serving and assemble the strata after dinner, either making time by enlisting someone else to do the dishes, or doing it while I watch a favorite show on the kitchen TV. The next morning, the strata comes out of the fridge to warm up toward room temperature while I stumble to pour a first cup of coffee; then as I sip my second cup of coffee it goes into the oven. By the time everyone is prodded, showered or back from their early walk, the strata is ready for the table, a hot and comforting dish combining whole-grain bread, calcium- and protein-rich cheese and a good serving of vegetables.
FYI, you can reverse this preparation schedule, by setting out the bread at night and assembling the strata in the morning to serve for dinner. This timing works best on weekends, the strata soaking all day. Each scenario covers 24 hours, but only uses about 30 minutes of your time to serve up a creamy, savory, complete meal.
Strata with Mixed Greens and Mushrooms
- 6 slices multi-grain bread
- 1 pkg. 5 oz. fresh baby dark greens (mix of kale, chard, spinach)
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup chopped leek white part and some pale green
- 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
- 8 oz. white mushrooms stemmed and finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves or 2 tsp. dried thyme
- Cooking spray
- 1½ cups 6 oz. reduced-fat white cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups 1 percent milk
- 1 tsp. dry mustard powder
- Generous pinch of cayenne pepper
- Freshly ground black pepper
Lay bread slices out on baking sheet for 4 to 12 hours, turning them occasionally to help the bread dry out.
In large saucepan, boil 2 inches water. Add greens and cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Drain in colander, then run cold water over greens until they are cool enough to handle, 1 minute. Squeeze excess moisture from greens, then chop finely. Set greens aside.
In medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add leek and onion and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, 4 minutes. Add mushrooms and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are moist, 4 minutes. Mix in greens, and cook until mixture is dry and fluffy. Set pan aside.
Coat 8-inch x 8-inch x 2-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange 2 bread slices on bottom of pan. Cut two bread slices in half and fit 2 halves so bread covers bottom of pan completely. Spoon greens and mushroom mixture in even layer over bread. Sprinkle half the cheese over vegetables. Arrange remaining bread slices and halves to cover filling.
In mixing bowl, whisk eggs until well blended. Add milk, mustard powder, cayenne and black peppers, and whisk to combine. Pour egg mixture into pan. Sprinkle remaining cheese over strata. Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours to overnight.
To bake strata, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. While oven heats, set strata on counter to come toward room temperature. Bake strata, uncovered, for 40 minutes, or until top is golden, with edges of bread browned and knife inserted into center comes out clean. Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.
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Photographs by Heather Victoria Photography