I’ve been trying to get rid of the Christmas weight and it hasn’t been easy, especially on the weekends. This past weekend I really wanted to do the breakfast bake thing that I had hoped to do over the holidays so I went through my cookbooks to try to find one that fit in an 8×8 pan. Then I discovered I don’t have a metal 8×8 pan! lol I do have my new brownie pan so I made one inspired by a recipe in the Cook’s Illustrated cookbook. For fillings we chose smoked cheddar, ham, and bacon. We didn’t have any breakfast meats available so Steve went to the grocery store and by the time he got back, we were running out of time. A couple of shortcuts ended up making things a little problematic. I forgot to toast the bread first which I think lended to it’s overly wet texture the first time I took it out of the oven, so I suggest not skipping that step. And I was short on time so I only chilled it for 30 minutes and took it out for about 10 minutes before putting it in the oven. I don’t think it quite had enough time to come up to temperature because when we took it out after 55 minutes it was still too wet in the middle. I put it in for another 20 minutes and it was much better. When we reheated it the next day it was even better. The flavours were lovely. Next time I would try adding some shallots or green onion to the mix, but other than that, I think this one’s worth putting in the extra effort next time.
Note: You can play around with the meat, cheese, veggie combos, just pay attention to the egg to bread ratio. C.I. original recipe has, 1 1/2 cups half and half, and 1/2 cup dry white wine reduced to 1/4 cup. I used all half and half and omitted the wine.
8-10 slices supermarket French bread (½-inch thick) or Italian bread (6 – 7 ounces)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces ham steaks, and a half a package of bacon
Table salt and ground black pepper, 3 shallots diced (optional)
6 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, grated (about 1½ cups)
6 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves or about a tsp of dried
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 225 degrees. Arrange bread in single layer on large baking sheet and bake until dry and crisp, about 40 minutes, turning slices over halfway through drying time. (Alternatively, leave slices out overnight to dry.) When cooled, butter slices on one side with 2 tablespoons butter; set aside.
2. Cut the ham steaks into 1/2 inch cubes and set aside. Cook bacon either in a frying pan or in the oven, until just cooked. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Transfer to medium bowl with the ham and season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Butter 8-inch square baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon butter; arrange half the buttered bread slices, buttered-side up, in single layer in dish. Sprinkle half of meat mixture, then ½ cup grated cheese evenly over bread slices. Arrange remaining bread slices in single layer over cheese; sprinkle remaining meat mixture and another ½ cup cheese evenly over bread. Whisk eggs and parsley in medium bowl until combined; half-and-half, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Pour egg mixture evenly over bread layers; cover surface flush with plastic wrap, weigh down (soup cans or juice boxes are great), and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
4. Remove dish from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature 20 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Uncover strata and sprinkle remaining ½ cup cheese evenly over surface; bake until both edges and center are puffed and edges have pulled away slightly from sides of dish, 50-60 minutes. Cool on wire rack 5 minutes; serve.