Mary Anne here. Last week an old high school friend wrote to me on Facebook and waxed eloquent about her family reunions where apple-laced stratas were frequent features and she got me thinking about this versatile, old fashioned favorite. This rustic breakfast staple also used to be a staple in my catering repertoire when I was cooking full-time.
The beauty of this dish is that it absolutely must be made the day before, which in my opinion is the sanest way to entertain. No last minute prep – no panic – everything is ready for show-time! Additionally, if you stick to the basic bread, egg/milk or cream portions as the custard-base, you can create a strata using whatever your heart desires…or whatever’s leftover in the larder. Pesto with mozzarella and a layer of prosciutto brings your party the flavor of Italia, while a simple ham and cheese combo elicits the suggestion of a savory Monte Cristo sandwich.
Whether you’re celebrating Mother’s Day with the fam or just gathering a gaggle of friends for a spring fling, this dish divines a multitude of creative dining options. I served my south-of-the-border combo con Mango Salsa and sliced avocado, but if the spirit moves you, add a salad and call it dinner. No matter how you decide to dish it up, this strata is sure to satisfy.
Four-Cheese Southwestern Breakfast Strata with Chorizo
Serves 8 to 10
2 Tablespoons olive oil – stock
1 red Bell pepper, diced – $1.65
1 small Vidalia onion, diced – $0.88
½ lb. Portobello mushrooms, sliced – $1.50
2 Jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced – $0.22
3 cloves garlic, minced – stock
½ cup fresh Cilantro, finely chopped – $0.99
Chipotle Chili powder, Tabasco, or Chili powder, to taste – stock
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups shredded cheeses: I used a pre-packaged “Mexican” combo of Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Colby, and Mozzarella – $3.00
½ lb. Chorizo, diced – $4.98
8 cups of 1-inch bread cubes – $2.99
2 ¾ cups milk – stock
9 eggs, lightly beaten – stock
Grand Total Assuming a Well-Stocked Pantry: $15.22
Total Per 10 Servings: $1.52
1. Over medium-high flame, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the peppers, onion, and mushrooms. Sauté until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
2. Add the garlic, chorizo, and chili powder and continue cooking an additional 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Butter or spray a 3 quart, shallow glass or ceramic casserole dish. Note: I use my Pyrex 9 x 13 x 2” pan.
4. In a large bowl, combine the eggs and milk, whisking well until foamy. Stir in the cilantro.
5. Spread ½ of the bread cubes over the bottom of the prepared pan. Top with ½ of the vegetable-chorizo mixture and then ½ of the shredded cheeses. Repeat the layering.
6. Pour the egg/milk mixture evenly over the strata. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. This is critical, as the bread needs to absorb the egg/milk mixture.
7. The day of: bring the casserole back to near-room temp for 1 hour on the counter-top.
8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees; the oven rack in positioned in the middle. Bake the strata for about 45 minutes until puffed and golden, about 45 minutes. Allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with Mango Salsa and slice avocado, if desired.