Bacon, Mushroom and Tomato Strata

Breakfast, Brunch / Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Coming up with brunch recipes that are sweet or fruity (or both) is easy. Everyone loves coffee cake, muffins, fruit salad, granola, danishes, cinnamon rolls, etc.

But you don’t want to put your guests into a sugar coma or send them home with diabeetus. (Thank you, Wilford Brimley.)

Somewhere on the table, maybe between the Overnight French Toast Casserole and the Strawberry Pretzel Salad, you need to balance things out with something savory.

Dude, NOT candied bacon.

You need eggs.

I’m not a quiche or frittata person, so my go-to egg dish is a Breakfast Strata.

It’s a make-ahead savory bread pudding – a casserole made with layers of crusty bread, egg custard and cheese – that’s the perfect foundation for adding three cups of just about anything.

Bacon, mushrooms and chopped tomatoes.

Ham, asparagus and caramelized onions.

Chicken, broccoli, corn and green chiles.

You get what I’m saying.

And now I’m hungry.

You can add almost anything to put your own spin on this casserole. Just make sure to cook any meat additions, and sauté or steam vegetables that need to be tender.

Throw this together Saturday night, and you’ll be high-fiving yourself Sunday morning. And isn’t that what life is really about?

Breakfast Strata

Slightly adapted from “Gale Gand’s Brunch!”

Serves 8

  • 5 cups of cubed French bread or sourdough (with crust)
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 10 large eggs
  • 1 quart (4 cups) whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons thinly sliced fresh chives or scallions (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Filling ingredients (see Variations below)
  1. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with butter or nonstick spray.
  2. Put the bread cubes in the dish, and sprinkle them with cheese. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, parsley, chives, mustard, and salt.
  4. Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes.
  5. Scatter the filling ingredients (see Variations) over the bread cubes, and gently press down with a spatula to make sure everything is moistened.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
  7. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  8. Uncover the baking dish, and bake for 60 minutes, until the mixture has puffed up slightly and is golden brown on top, and the strata doesn’t wiggle back and forth when you shake the pan. Tent the dish with foil if the top is browning too quickly. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serve using a large serving spoon.


Bacon, Cheddar, Mushroom and Tomato

Sprinkle 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese over the bread cubes. Distribute 1 cup crumbled cooked bacon (6 to 8 strips), 1 cup sautéed sliced white or shiitake mushrooms, and 1 cup chopped tomatoes over the egg mixture.

Chicken, Broccoli, Corn, Chiles and Jack 

Sprinkle 2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese over the bread cubes. Distribute 1 cup frozen corn kernels, 1 cup cooked broccoli florets, two 4.5-ounce cans (drained) chopped green chiles, and 1/2 cup shredded cooked chicken over the egg mixture.

Ham, Swiss and Asparagus

Sprinkle 2 cups grated Swiss cheese over the bread cubes. Distribute 1 cup blanched asparagus pieces, 1 cup cubed ham, and 1/2 cup caramelized onions over the egg mixture.

(To Caramelize Onions: Melt 3 tablespoons unsalted butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 large onion, thinly sliced, turn down heat to medium-low, and sauté slowly for 20 minutes, until the onion caramelizes a bit.)