Entertaining is what I live for. That's really not an exaggeration at all. It's right up there with skiing as my absolute favorite things to do. When we have people over, I always love making a party out of it. When we take people camping, I try to figure out the nicest meals we can make over an itty bitty camp stove with minimum fuel so that we can have an ultralight dinner party at 10,000 feet.
So having our condo out of party commission for over a year because of renovation -- and renovation mess -- has cramped my style quite a bit. Now that we've finally cleaned up, I pretty much want to have people over every day, for any possible occasion.
In that spirit, we had our dear friends Edward and Toby over for brunch on Sunday, and we made the world's best brunch food for entertaining: a strata. I think of it as bread pudding, but more breakfast-y. It's puffy, a little crispy on top, full of deliciousness.
We made ours with a combo of ground turkey and pork sausage, as well as the usual eggs, cheese and milk, but you can put just about anything in it and accommodate nearly any dietary restrictions short of vegan or gluten free (though I wouldn't try to dissuade you if you wanted to try it with gluten-free bread).
The best part of all? You can make it 100% ahead -- in fact that's preferable -- and so here was our kitchen when the boys arrived. All the dishes done, no cooking left to be done.
Want to know how to do it? It couldn't be easier...
5 to 6 cups of cubed, day-old bread (Cut it up the day before into 1" cubes, and let it get nice and dry)
10-12 large eggs
2 to 3 cups of milk (I use 1% to keep it healthier)
1 to 2 cups of cooked breakfast sausage, chicken, turkey, veggie crumbles, etc. (Optional)
1 to 3 cups of shredded cheese (Optional)
1 to 3 cups of chopped, cooked veggies (Optional)
1 thinly sliced tomato for garnish (Optional)
Notice how there's not a single mandatory ingredient in a set amount? That's deliberate. This is absolutely a "little of this, little of that" kind of recipe.
Prepare a large glass or ceramic baking dish by spraying with nonstick spray. Place the bread cubes in the dish. Sprinkle the meat or meat-like product on top of the bread, if using. Then sprinkle on all but 1/2 cup of the cheese, if using. Up to you if you want to use a little bit or a lot. Then sprinkle on the veggies, if using. Beat 10 eggs in a bowl for about a minute until they start to lighten in color, and then whisk in 2 cups of the milk. Pour the egg and milk custard over everything in the dish, and lightly press down on the contents to mostly submerge things. If everything does not get covered, whisk together two more eggs and another cup of milk, and pour it over the top. Cover and refrigerate for three to 24 hours. The bread will soak up the liquid, and if it seems too dry when you uncover it, you can always whisk together one more egg and a little milk and pour it over. But there's a good chance it'll be great without it. Preheat the oven to 350, and let the strata warm up slightly on the counter while the oven preheats. Add the remaining shredded cheese and any garnish like sliced tomatoes or minced herbs. Bake uncovered 50-75 minutes, until it's all puffed up and golden and pretty, and the custard doesn't jiggle around when you gently shake the pan. Let it stand for 10 minutes, just so that it is easier to slice. Slice and serve like you would lasagna, and enjoy!
Serves 6-12. (Or just four of us. If you saw how much we all ate, you'd swear we were all 100 pounds heavier than we are!)
Even though our strata is full of meaty goodness, we still like to serve it with a side of maple bacon. That's easy to make too: lay out uncooked bacon on a baking rack over a cookie sheet. Brush lightly with maple syrup, and bake 15-25 minutes at 350 until done.
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