Laura Lewis serves up a decadent breakfast casserole filled with all the good stuff you need to start your weekend the right way.
By Laura Lewis
Mornings waver between extremes: the painful fight against grogginess, or a wonderfully lazy start to the day. I’d argue that a major tipping point is breakfast. Rushing out the door with a growling stomach is outstripped by taking even five minutes with a bowl of granola, with bonus points if it’s raining outside and you have a hot coffee to keep you warm. I have a special soft spot for breakfasts that can be prepared the night before, saving me from doing anything in my morning haze other than turning the oven on (still a fairly perilous task). At the top of the list is the strata: combining eggs, cheese, and bread into a single luxurious dish that guarantees you won’t be hungry till lunch.
Stratas are layered cubes of bread, baked in a casserole with eggs and milk for a custard-like consistency. The prep is all the night before, letting the liquid soak into the bread overnight and minimizing morning work. Using frozen spinach and jarred red peppers makes it even easier, but if you have the time, fresh spinach and home-roasted peppers never hurt. It’s a decadent breakfast and works even better for brunch, letting you sleep in until an hour before your guests arrive.
Breakfast stratas usually have cheese melted on top, but borrowing a trick from lasagna, I added dollops of ricotta, adding creaminess to the layers of gruyère and bread. Sundried tomatoes and roasted peppers also help cut the richness – so effectively that I find I can sometimes eat a double portion. I don’t recommend it though – the leftovers can be reheated the next day, stretching a slow weekend breakfast into a great weekday morning.
- ¼ cup (0,6dl) chopped dry-packed sundried tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 6 ounces (170 g) frozen spinach, thawed
- ½ cup (1,25dl) chopped roasted red peppers
- ½ teaspoon salt, divided
- 5 cups (1,25l) cubed French or Italian bread, crusts removed (about ½ pound or 225 g)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup (2,5dl) milk
- ¼ cup (0,6dl) heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Pinch freshly ground pepper
- ⅓ cup (0,8dl) ricotta
- 1 cup (2,5dl) gruyère, grated
- ½ cup (1,25dl) parmesan, finely grated
- Cover sundried tomatoes with boiling water and let sit for 15 minutes. Drain off water. Squeeze handfuls of spinach to remove as much water as possible, and then chop.
- Over medium-low heat, heat butter until no longer bubbling. Saute onion until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, stir until golden, about 30 seconds. Stir in spinach, peppers, sundried tomatoes and ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir until mixture is dry, about 1 minute, then remove from heat.
- In a buttered square casserole, layer half of bread cubes. Spread over half of spinach mixture, then spoonfuls of half of ricotta. Scatter over half of gruyère and parmesan. Repeat layering.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cream, mustard, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper. Pour egg mixture evenly over casserole. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- In the morning, remove casserole from the fridge and let sit while preheating oven to 350°F (175°C). Bake casserole until browned and cooked through, about 45-50 minutes.
Laura Lewis is a Boston-based contributor to Honest Cooking. She enthusiastic about both cooking and eating, and especially the day's bookends: breakfast and dessert. You can also find her baking at her own website One Cake Two Cake.