Friday, December 6, 2013

Sausage and Cheddar Breakfast Strata

Last Year's Post: Greek Phyllo Wraps with Tzatziki
Two Years Ago:  Roasted Tomato Tart with Goat Cheese and Black Olives

Will you have a group of people at your house for breakfast or brunch over the holidays?  Or maybe you're planning to host a New Year's Day brunch.  Either way, a strata is the perfect answer.  A strata consists of milk and eggs beaten together and poured over bread cubes, meat, vegetables and cheese, then baked into a savory casserole.  It's perfect for company because it makes a lot of servings and you can assemble it the night before so all you have to do the next morning is pop it in the oven while you set the table and assemble some fruit, coffee and juices.

This recipe as written will serve 6-8 people depending on how many other foods are on the table, and it can be easily doubled if you're having a big crowd.  It's equally good for a light dinner with a green salad, and leftovers reheat beautifully.

I found this recipe ages ago and make it regularly, varying the ingredients according to what's on hand or in season.  You can make it very healthy by using low-fat milk, wheat bread, and turkey sausage.  The spicy sausage is particularly good because everything else in the recipe is mild, but if you're serving a large group and some people really don't like spicy food, use mild sausage in the strata (or 50/50 spicy and mild) and then serve hot sauce on the side so people can spice it up to their taste.  Of course, you could always use pork sausage, you could vary the type of cheese and veggies to suit your taste, and you could use sourdough or Italian bread in place of wheat.  

If you can't find bulk sausage, buy Italian sausage in links (not breakfast sausages in those tiny links) and take the sausage out of the casings.  The sausage, onions and peppers are cooked and then layered over bread cubes.  The milk/egg custard is poured on top and the cheese goes on last.  Put the dish in the refrigerator overnight and then simply bake it the next morning.

What could be easier?  Serve the strata with with a pretty basket of scones or croissants, a big bowl of mixed fruit, a selection of juices and good coffee and you're set.

printable recipe
Sausage and Cheddar Breakfast Strata
Serves 6-8

1 package (1 lb) bulk spicy turkey breakfast or Italian sausage
1 cup chopped onion
½ green bell pepper, chopped
½ red bell pepper, chopped
6 slices wheat bread (4 cups cubed)
6 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper

Crumble the sausage into a non-stick 12” skillet and begin to cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.  Add the onion and red and green peppers and continue to cook, stirring, until the sausage is fully cooked.  If the pan contains grease, pour the mixture into a colander and drain well.  Set aside.

Slice the bread into 1” cubes.  Coat a 2-inch deep 8” by 11” (or 9" by 9") casserole dish with non-stick spray on the bottom and sides.  Put the bread cubes in the dish.  Sprinkle the reserved sausage mixture evenly over the bread.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper until well combined. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the sausage and use a fork to press the sausage and bread into the milk mixture until all the bread is moist.  Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top.  Cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375d.  Bake, uncovered, for 55 to 60 minutes until light brown and puffy and the eggs have cooked through.  If the top begins to brown too quickly, cover with foil for the remainder of cooking time.  Let the dish stand for 10 minutes prior to cutting and serving.

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