Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas breakfast strata

Christmas morning, what a great time to dirty the house and spend the morning making breakfast for the hoards, right? Wrong!

This strata (essentially a savory bread pudding) has become our Christmas breakfast tradition, and it's brilliant. All the preparation takes place the day before and it bakes while we open presents. There are no leftovers because it's yummy, and my family has eaten two veggies first thing in the morning, without even noticing!

So, funny story, I went to the grocery store after work specifically to buy eggs to make this, and came home with cookies and various other things, but no eggs. You will have to imagine the eggs in all of the pictures below. Senility is so annoying....

Christmas breakfast strata (serves 8 adults and 2 kids)
And imagine the eggs - cage-free, organic please!

  • 8 cups of bread. I know, that is a ridiculous measurement. A bagel is about a cupful. I use Breadsmith wholewheat hamburger buns and 6 is plenty because they are large. If you choose to use cheese bagels you could omit the cheese in the recipe.You could be very frugal and freeze all those last bits of the load no one wants, until you have enough to make this. Stale bread works wonderfully well, but it needs to be "real" bread, bread with body and character. Wonder bread will dissolve...
  • 3 onions chopped (we like onions - you might want to add less, or more.. this is an "-ish" recipe rather than a very set in stone one)
  • 1 large package of fresh spinach (fresh veggies will give off less water than frozen - we don't want to dilute the egg custard with water)
  •  2 cups of strong cheese, grated
  • 9 large eggs
  • 1 package bacon - we use turkey bacon
  • 2 3/4 cups of milk
  • garlic to taste. I love this garlic in a tube. It is always ready to use, no getting your hands stinky etc. I keep it in the freezer so I always have it on hand. A tube lasts for ages and it tastes like real garlic, unlike that dried stuff.
  • seasoning to taste - this is your choice. I use sage because it plays so nicely with onions, a pinch of nutmeg because it plays nice in custard based recipes, and cayenne pepper because we like spicy food. Salt and pepper are good. You could also use parsley, mustard, anything that will go well with the rest of the ingredients. Amounts depend on your taste. I used probably a heaped teaspoon of dried sage, a goodly pinch each (such precision) of nutmeg and cayenne, and probably half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper.
  • knob of butter - I normally cook with olive oil, but if I am going to cook onions it has to be butter. My husband will invariably ask what I'm doing because it smells so good, and the answer is always "frying onions in butter"!
Saute the onions in a knob of butter till they become translucent. Roughly chop the bacon into 1/2 inch pieces and add to the onion. Add a couple of garlic cloves chopped, or about a 2 inch squeeze if you are using tube garlic. If you are using raw bacon cook for longer, if you are using turkey bacon saute for about 5 minutes till the everything is nicely combined.
 Grease a large, deep ovenproof casserole dish and layer the bread, spinach, onion and bacon mixture as if you were making lasagna. In between the layers sprinkle cheese and seasoning. End with a bread layer on top. Smoosh the spinach well down so it doesn't incinerate on the top when baking.
 In a separate bowl beat the eggs and milk, then pour over the "lasagna". Let it stand for 5 minutes, then take a fork and push the top layer of bread gently into the liquid, so that the top won't be dry and nasty. You are going to have to imagine the picture for this one due to a certain shopper's incompetence...This dish is actually a little overfilled. It would be better to have the last layer end about an inch below the top of the dish. The strata then needs to sit in the fridge overnight so the bread can absorb the liquid.

In the morning, take the strata out of the fridge first thing so that it can get to room temperature before baking. You could add some grated cheese or mozzarella to the top before baking. Set the oven to 350 and bake for at least an hour. Put the casserole disk on a baking sheet to avoid spills in your oven. The strata will puff up and look wonderful! Insert a skewer to make sure it is done. The skewer should come out clean. If it comes out covered in runny egg mixture it needs to bake some more. Once it is done let it sit for about 5 minutes before trying to dish it up, and be careful! It will be very hot.

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