Improve Cooking Basics: Strata

strata

(or, a handy way to use up a bunch of stuff in your fridge and garden, Part I)

Eggs are pretty great for so many reasons, and one of those reasons is being a vehicle for using up leftovers and random items in your fridge. My two favorite ways to use odds and ends are in strata and frittata. Obviously, I’ll be focusing on the strata here, since I just finished one a few days ago. I’ll get to the frittata in another post.

I don’t think I’ve made the same strata twice, because I don’t actually plan for strata, ever. Beyond using stuff in the fridge, it’s also grand for using up a good deal of tasty bread that’s gone kind of stale, or using a loaf of bread that didn’t quite turn out how you wanted. (A recent example of this was a sourdough that I didn’t allow to rise properly during the Christmas season – it stayed the same size during the entire process, including baking, and was dense as a rock. I just barely managed to cube it, and it made fabulous strata!) It’s also a really nice way to use up sour milk.

The point is, I’m going to give you a recipe here, but you can take the basics – amount of bread, amount of liquid, amount of eggs, etc. – and add whatever you want to it. You can make it vegetarian if that’s your bag, and we’ve been known to do that around here. In fact, I encourage you NOT to find the items I’m using besides the basics, and use up what’s already in your house, because I’m all about not wasting food, and so should you. So without further ado, strata time!

Basic Strata Recipe

You will need:

  • 7-8 cups of stale, hearty bread, cubed
  • 2 1/2 c milk (this can be fresh or sour milk)
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp black pepper (I love pepper. Adjust accordingly.)
  • 2 c chopped dark leafy greens – think mustard greens, kale, arugula, and spinach
  • 4oz chopped pork side meat (this is basically thick bacon we get from a local pork farm) or other salty protein. We used leftover goetta in this last round. If you don’t know what it is, go to Cincinnati, eat it, and then look it up.
  • 1-1 1/2 c cheese – I’ve used shredded cheddar and pepper jack, as well as dollops of goat cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet, and toast lightly until the bread is dried out, about 10-15 minutes. Check frequently to prevent burning. Allow to cool.
  2. Grease a baking or casserole dish (I’ve used both an 8×10 and a 9×13 with success).
  3. In a medium or large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper.
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the toasted bread cubes, leafy greens, meat, and cheese. Pour mixture into the baking dish. You can also choose to do this directly in the baking dish, but I find it easier to distribute things evenly in a bowl first.
  5. Pour egg mixture slowly on top of bread mixture, distributing the liquid evenly and making sure the bread is coated well.
  6. Cover with foil and allow to sit and soak for 4 hours or overnight. (You can technically skip this step, but this allows for the bread to get good and soaked through).
  7. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake, covered, for 25-30 minutes.
  8. Remove foil, increase heat to 375, and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes until the center is set and no longer releasing liquid. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving and eating.

Hungry for more Improv Cooking Basics recipes? Here you go!

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