Apparently it is Feed My Parents Scraps Month, but luckily so far, no one is complaining.
But I realized, as I was cracking eggs late Saturday night, feeling a little pleased with myself for turning stale bread, cheese ends, and fresh eggs into the next day’s brunch, that while this is a regular part of my cooking routine (and is even mentioned in Libby’s essay for Cassoulet), I’ve never offered a recipe for strata here. And in fact, I’m not going to now, either, because for me the point of strata is that you don’t need a recipe (although feel free to search online and choose among the hundreds available). You need stale bread, fresh eggs, milk, and some cheese. If you have onions, mushrooms, roasted peppers or greens, those are nice additions, too.
Here’s what you do:
The night before you want your strata, tear or cut the bread into cubes. You’ll want about half a loaf’s worth (4-8 cups) to fill a standard 9×13″ roasting pan, but you don’t have to be precise about amounts; the less bread you use, the lighter and more souffle-like the dish will be. I tend to cut stale bread into cubes and store them in the freezer, so I always have a random mix of sourdough, sweet and whole wheat, which works nicely for this, but of course one type of bread (and even fresh bread) works beautifully.
Beat together 6 eggs with 3-4 cups of milk. You want enough liquid to moisten the bread, but as with the bread, your amounts don’t need to be precise. If you don’t have many eggs, compensate with more milk and/or cheese. If you like, whisk in a tablespoon or two of mustard.
Grate up a cup or two of cheese, whatever you like. I usually use some combination of swiss, gouda, or cheddar; this week, I only had about an ounce each of cheddar and Cotswold.
If you want to add vegetables, now’s the time to slice and saute them.
Toss the bread cubes into the baking pan, sprinkle the cheese and vegetables, if you’re using any, onto the bread, and then pour the milk/egg mixture over the bread. Push the top cubes down a bit to moisten them, and then cover the pan with foil and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, take the pan out of the fridge and preheat the oven to 375. Once the oven is hot, bake the strata, covered, for 30 minutes, then uncover and finish baking, another 15 minutes or so, until the eggs are set and the top is nicely browned. Serve straight from the oven or at room temperature.