Christmas strata

A festive one-dish brunch that's easy to make and will feed a crowd.

Three Many Cooks
Strata is layered with bread, eggs, sharp cheese, and roasted red peppers and canned green chiles for festive color.

Brunch at my house likely means strata. It’s easy to prepare and can be (but doesn’t have to be) made a day or two ahead. Strata also has another selling point. Kids generally love it – after all, it’s just cheese and milk and bread – making it ideal for intergenerational gatherings.

I’ve got a foolproof formula that’s easy to internalize – a dozen eggs, a quart of half-and-half, three cups of your favorite sharp cheese, salt and a few grinds of pepper. There’s bread too. Depending on the style strata, you’ve got options. For a smooth souffle-like texture, use fluffy white bread. For a dense, hearty texture, use a good baguette. (I’m going for dense substantial this year, but if you’re looking for the other style, click here.)

Of course, you can add ham or sausage, but I prefer to keep mine plain cheese or veggie, which means it works for everyone. This time of year I’ve chosen roasted red peppers and canned green chiles. Not only do they offer great seasonal color, they don’t need to be sautéed. Just dice and you’re done.

Another holiday strategy – bake a festive spiral-cut ham to round out the meal. Leftovers are great for sandwiches, hors d’oeuvres and snacks throughout the holiday. And don’t forget to save the bone for bean, lentil, or split pea soup!

Christmas Strata

Serves 12

If you refrigerate the strata make sure you allow extra baking time.

1 quart half and half
1 dozen eggs
1 teaspoon salt and several freshly ground black peppers
1 good baguette (scant 1 pound) cut into 1/2 inch thick slice
1/2 cup diced roasted red pepper from a jar
1/2 cup diced green chiles from 4.5-ounce can
12 ounces pepper jack cheese, grated (about 3 cups)
 /2 cup thin-sliced scallions (about 3 medium)

Whisk half and half, eggs, salt and pepper to taste until smooth.

Spray a 13-by 9-inch Pyrex or ceramic baking dish with vegetable cooking spray. Line pan bottom with half the bread slices. Scatter half the peppers over the bread, then sprinkle with half the cheese and scallions. Pour a couple of cups of the egg mixture over the topped bread. Make another layer with remaining bread, peppers, cheese and scallions. Slowly pour remaining egg mixture over bread. Press on bread to make sure it absorbs milk mixture. Let sit for about 15 minutes before baking. (Can be covered and refrigerated up to 2 days.)

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Bake until custard is just set, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Without adjusting oven rack, turn on broiler; broil until strata is spotty brown and puffy, about 5 minutes longer.

Remove from oven, let stand for 8 to 10 minutes, and then serve.

Related post: Corn Muffins

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