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Ham, sharp cheddar and scallion strata recipe at lynnecurry.com.

Anything Strata: A Recipe Formula for Holidays and Everyday

Nine  Five years ago, I wrote a book proposal on strata, that family of savory and sweet bread puddings that are frugal, adaptable and universally loved.

It never sold. I’m happy that I didn’t have to recipe test 70 savory strata recipes–that would be a lot of bready meals. {Sometimes rejection is a good thing}.

The experience did give me the foundation for producing strata at the drop of a hat. And I discovered that I prefer savory bread puddings to sweet ones. {They’re called strata because they’re built in layers.}

What I love about savory strata, apart from its economy, is its versatility. For seasonal cooks that means you can make strata any time of the year using whatever vegetable is in abundance. For last Sunday’s Slow Food potluck, I made one with roasted butternut squash, a vegetable I have aplenty.

At this time of year, use whatever’s in cold storage or the freezer to dream up a strata based on this formula {or skip to the recipe}. It’s a great way to keep eating local whenever you’re stuck here in the veggie doldrums of winter.

Savory Strata Formula

Here’s how to make a savory bread pudding with most anything you have on hand. There are only three parts to a savory strata:

Part 1: The Bread

Some recipes say to cut off the crusts. If you want to get fancy or are making a sweet strata for dessert, then by all means trim off the crusts. But I like the textural contrast of more and less chew–and not wasting bread. In fact, I collect crusts and loaf ends in my freezer just for the purposes of making a strata. I tear the bread, generally–unless I want more uniformity, and then I cut–before toasting until crisp.

8 to 10 slices nicely fills a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Ham, sharp cheddar and scallion strata recipe at lynnecurry.com.

Part 2: The Custard

This is a no-fuss mixture of milk and eggs. I use a proportion of roughly 2 eggs to 1 cup of milk. To add richness, replace a portion of milk with half and half or heavy cream and include an extra egg yolk. Or, to lighten it up, substitute vegetable or chicken broth. Season each cup of milk with 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus any other herbs or spices you like. If you want to check the flavorings, but are concerned about salmonella, mix up the milk with the seasonings and taste before you add the eggs.

2 1/2 cups of custard brings enough moisture to the standard baking dish and yields a crispy top once baked.

{*For a completely dairy-free bread pudding, try one of these panade recipes I wrote for Relish magazine .}

Ham, sharp cheddar and scallion strata recipe at lynnecurry.com.

Part 3: The Flavorful Filling

This is where you get creative. Anything goes and in any quantity, leftovers included. The only guidelines are to use combinations that appeal to you, generally 2 to 3 ingredients, and make certain that they taste great on their own. Most ingredients need to be cooked in advance, especially any leafy greens, mushrooms or ground meats.

For my butternut squash strata, I roast the squash in olive oil, salt and pepper and ground dried rosemary, and tasted it to be sure it was well seasoned. With cooked greens, such as spinach, chard or kale, I like to add freshly grated nutmeg or red pepper flakes along with the salt. Go with your gut.

Finally, while strata is the ideal use for that hunk of dried-up cheese, know that cheese is optional.*

1 to 3 cups of added vegetables and meats plus 1 to 3 cups of cheese produces a strata with interesting variety and flavors.

Baking Times:

For a 9 by 13-inch baking dish (or equivalent), bake at 375°F for 45-50 minutes until the center is springy to the touch and the top is nicely browned.

For individual strata is large muffin tins or ramekins, bake at 375°F for 12-14 minutes until the center is springy to the touch and the top is nicely browned.

Bonus: Getting Fancy

I’m certain you’ve seen them on restaurant menus. So, how do you dress up your own savory strata recipes?

It’s easy. Cut the bread nice and even (without the crusts, see “bread” above), enrich the filling with half and half or cream and include out-of-the ordinary ingredients, such as wild mushrooms, crab, or leeks.

Bake the strata in individual ramekins (reducing the baking time by 10 to 15 minutes) or use a round cutter to cut servings from a standard baking dish.

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Ham, sharp cheddar and scallion strata recipe at lynnecurry.com.
4.5 from 2 votes
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Ham, Sharp Cheddar & Scallion Strata

Here is an example of how to put all the principles of making strata into practice. It uses whole wheat bread and leftover baked ham and is flavored with mustard and sharp cheddar cheese. I love to serve a rich strata--even for brunch--with a tossed green salad.

Course Breakfast, Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 8 people
Calories 406 kcal
Author Lynne Curry

Ingredients

  • 8 1/2-inch slices of crusty whole wheat country bread
  • 2 1/2 cups milk whole or skim
  • 4 large eggs pastured
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard or Dijon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pinch cayenne
  • 4-6 ounces sliced ham or Canadian bacon, chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 3 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Tear or cut the bread into bite-sized pieces. Place them in a single layer on a large baking sheet and toast until crisp and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

  2. Whisk the milk, eggs, mustard, salt, and cayenne until smooth in a large measuring cup to make the custard.
  3. Toss the ham, scallions and 2 cups of the cheese with the bread in a large mixing bowl until well distributed.

  4. Butter or oil a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Transfer the bread mixture into the baking dish and pour over the custard over it. Cover with plastic wrap and weight with a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag filled with rice or beans. Press down to submerge the bread. 

  5. Let the strata soak for at least 30 minutes at room temperature or up to 2 days in the refrigerator.

  6. If the strata was chilled, let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 375°F and remove the weights and plastic wrap. Sprinkle on the remaining cheddar cheese. 

  7. Bake until the strata is puffed, bubbly, and the top is well browned, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before serving.

Comments

  1. Roseanne T. Sullivan

    I love recipes like yours here that tell the principles of making something, but I think you should have included the temperature and baking time. I have been looking for 10 minutes. The Recipe Whole Wheat … link just goes to your homepage.

    1. That’s a great point, Roseanne. I like to bake strata at 375 F for a nicely browned top. For a big strata like in the recipe–I fixed the link at last!–it will bake for 45-50 minutes. I now also bake individual strata that bake to doneness (springy center, browned top) in 12-14 minutes.

    2. I’ve updated this post to include a model recipe for baking instructions–and a printable recipe–and removed the link.

  2. Sandra Sharp

    I live in rural Washington. When I occasionally fly out of Seattle, I go to Dish D’Lish for their savory breakfast stratas. Since I’m retired and work a lot on my little ‘spread’, higher calorie/protein breakfasts are really useful. So I would like to make my own breakfast strata when I’m at home, as I also often make crust-free quiche. THANK YOU for the ‘key’ to making strata.

  3. I love those Dish D’Lish stratas, too Sandra! You could do the same if you have giant muffin tins, which is a wonderful bake ahead breakfast or for company. The timing instructions for the small ones are in the comments above. Think I’ll have to do that this weekend, myself.

  4. Judy

    I would’ve bought that book.

    1. [Heart]

  5. Chef Garfie


    I would have purchased the strata books hands down. I have spent countless hours searching for data, not just recipes, regarding basic manufacturing of stratas. Let’s not even talk about kicking it up or troubleshooting pointers. I have several “info” books and especially value my ones on olive oils, vinegars, and hot sauces. I am currently developing one regarding the salts of the world.

    1. Thanks, Chef! I, too, love reference books. Keep me posted on your salt book. It’s one of my favorite food subjects.

  6. Susan Winters


    I am going to attempt a turkey pot pie version, using multi grain bread slices (Healthier than white pie crust)mixed veggies & leftover cubes of rotisserie turkey breast. Thank you for laying down the basics for me.
    Wish me luck!

    1. That sounds great, Susan. I hope you let me know how it turns out. Cranberry glaze on top, maybe?

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