Jen invited me out to Pennsylvania for New Year’s Day. One of her neighbors had a champagne and strata party. I had forgotten how yummy and easy this dish is. I used to make it often at the Inn on Summer Hill near Santa Barbara. The best thing about that kitchen was the view: I could see the ocean!
This is a three-step process: Assembling the dish, letting it sit then baking.
Try a 4-quart baking dish for these amounts.
8 slices of stale bread (gluten-free works, too)
6 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1 1/2 c whole milk
1/2 c half-and-half
To dry out the bread, you can heat them in the oven or leave the slices out overnight. Because you want to completely submerge the bread in the eggs and milk, set aside a bag of flour or sugar as a weight. You want a shape that will cover the 4-quart baking dish.
Whisk the egg yolks then the egg whites. Blend together. Add the milk and half-and-half. Mix well.
Now comes the fun part. You can use one or two of these (but not three):
1/2 c sauteed mushrooms
1/2 c sauteed onions
1/4 c madeira, white wine or cooking sherry
1/2 c roughly chopped pre-cooked sausage
1/2 c gently torn raw spinach
1/2 c shredded cheese
1/4 c goat cheese or crumbled blue cheese
Prepare the baking dish with butter or spray oil. Place the first 4 slices of bread on the bottom of the dish. It’s ok to overlap. Gently pour in 1/3 of the egg-milk mixture. Add half of your savory ingredients. Place the other 4 slices of bread on top. Add the other half of your savory ingredients. Gently pour the remaining egg-milk mixture over the bread.
Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap with extra to overlap the edges. Carefully place your weight (flour bag) on top of the dish. Set in the fridge overnight — or at least 3 hours.
Remove the dish from the fridge and let it come to room temperature (or about the same time it takes your oven to warm up). Set your oven to 425 degrees. When the oven is ready, remove the weight (flour bag) and plastic wrap. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes. Bake until the center comes out clean and the dish separates from the sides of the dish. Serve immediately. (This reheats well in the dish.)