Tomato, Bacon and Mushroom Strata

Like a little black dress a recipe for a good breakfast casserole is a must in any cook’s repertoire.   After all, there are few things better than waking up with a hot cup of strong coffee, your local newspaper, and a plateful of eggs.

I’ve been breakfast obsessed my whole life.  My parents, who did so much to prepare me for life after them, did me a huge disservice in the breakfast department.  My father, short-order cook extraordinaire, made a hot breakfast for us every morning.  Apple pancakes, scrambled eggs, and red-eye gravy were the breakfast of champions growing-up.  Waffles weren’t just for Saturdays.

And then I left home and realized that breakfast doesn’t make itself.  Cold cereal and breakfast bars became the norm and waking up just wasn’t as fun.  11 years later, I’m still mourning the loss of hot breakfasts (without effort) from my life.  Fortunately, my mornings got a little brighter recently with the discovery of savory stratas.

Stratas are layered-casseroles made from a few basic pantry ingredients.  Eggs, milk, and day-old bread are the basics;  your favorite cheese, breakfast meat, and vegetables add pizzazz. Quickly assembled the day before, this easy casserole is ready to eat in 45 minutes the next morning.

My Tomato, Bacon and Mushroom Strata recipe combines  crispy bacon, mushrooms, and summer tomatoes with Gouda and Monterey Jack cheese to make a hearty casserole that is company-worthy.  But don’t wait for company. While its best straight out of the oven, leftovers do remarkably well with a quick reheating in the microwave; a trait that makes this casserole a hot and satisfying breakfast that spoils you for a couple of days.

Tomato, Bacon and Mushroom Strata – Printer Friendly Recipe
Serves 4

This recipe adapts easily.  Keep the ratio of eggs, milk, and bread the same but be adventurous in substituting whatever meats, vegetables, and cheeses you have on hand.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing baking dish
1 small yellow onion, chopped
4 pieces thick-cut bacon, cooked and chopped
1 large tomato, seeded and diced
1 cup sliced white mushroom caps
½ cup grated Gouda cheese
1 cup grated Monterey jack cheese
1 ½ cups whole milk
5 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups cubed day-old French bread

Butter an 8-inch by 8-inch glass baking dish.

In a small skillet over medium heat melt the two tablespoons of butter.  Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Spoon the softened onions into a medium bowl and toss with the bacon, tomato, and mushroom slices.  Set aside.

Combine the Gouda and Monterey Jack cheese in a small bowl.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, salt, and pepper.

Spread a third of the bread cubes in the bottom of the baking dish.  Top with a third of the bacon and vegetable mixture and then sprinkle with a third of the cheese.  Repeat two more times to create three layers of ingredients.  Carefully pour the egg and milk over the ingredients.

Cover the baking dish and refrigerate overnight.

Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees.  Remove the strata from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking to bring it to room temperature.  Bake the strata for 45 minutes or until it is golden brown.  Serve immediately with a cup of hot coffee and fruit.


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