A friend recently told me about a study which hypothesized that people’s tastes evolve every seven years. This doesn’t sound revolutionary when considering the drivel you listened to in high school (ugh, Smashbox 20, what was I thinking?), or how tailoring a pair of pants feels (and fits) right once you hit your thirties. Hell, what six year-old likes Brussels sprouts and rosé wine? Just the cool ones, I guess. But—if you consider the other myriad ways you’ve changed over the course of the last seven or fourteen years—the evidence is more dramatic. For instance, I’m a morning person now; if you’d informed high-school, college, or even grad-school Beckie that she could rise before the hour of 7AM, though, she might have chucked a daisy-shaped alarm clock at your temple.
But since moving to Hawaii and on into my thirties (as Porsha from Atlanta would say), my whole attitude has changed. Mornings are for getting stuff done. Granted, my version of stuff involves scrolling through Instagram while pounding cold-brew coffee and offering a few gentle swipes at whichever celebrity is currently embarrassing herself on the Food Network (if I wanted Trisha Yearwood’s recipe for tuna casserole, I’d read her album liner notes like a decent hamburger helper). Sleep is for the wicked, and I no longer indulge in it; that is—until nap time, a habit I plan never to change as long as there’s a cool room and a lull in social media.
If you made it through that entire rant unscathed, then I must confess: this recipe is for the past Beckies of the world—for the lazy, the indulgent, those with comfy Anthropologie sheets that cost more than her last three shifts at the Cracker Barrel. This recipe demands to be made the night before, and—if you’ve trained your poodle to put casseroles in the oven, you won’t have to lift a finger the next morning save to feed yourself (those who have already trained their poodles to operate the oven understand that this is a true pro-tip; get on it!!).
This style of breakfast is my absolute favorite: maximum flavor? check! a host of under-utilized ingredients languishing in the fridge? check check! seems fancy but is actually pretty easy (like most of my friends sophomore year of college)? check check check! What I present to you is a breakfast strata for the ages, a savory bread pudding with a basic foundation of eggs, bread, and cheese—the rest is up to you. I must stress this cannot be made the morning of; the recipe requires that you make it the night before, with all the hopes and dreams of a new day on the horizon. It doesn’t demand that you face that day with a new recipe to tackle. Even better, the bread must be old and stale to hold the custard better. So you’re rewarded for not keeping a tight leash on your pantry or oven-operating canine. I love to make these the weekend after a dinner that involved some sort of roasted vegetable or a salad with leftover goat cheese. I find all the leftovers I’ve been neglecting and toss them in the strata. And once they bake together, they meld in delightful and satisfying flavors.
Move over, Trish. There’s a new sheriff in town. A casserole sheriff.
- 8 cups stale white bread, cut into 1” cubes (I prefer focaccia or sourdough)
- 1 ½ cups milk
- 1 ¾ cups cream
- 9 eggs
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- ½ cup finely diced onion
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh herbs, minced and divided in half (parsley works well)
- 3 cups shredded cheese (I use whatever’s on hand, as long as I’m certain the flavors pair well)
- 1-2 cups of filling
- In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, Dijon, milk, heavy cream, and mustard until combined. Whisk in 1 tablespoon fresh minced herbs and onion. Depending on your filling ingredients, add 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. If using already well-salted ingredients, salt to taste.
- Place your bread, cheese, and filling ingredients in easy reach for assembling.
- In a large, greased casserole dish, distribute ½ of the bread. Add ⅔s of the filling ingredients and ⅔ of the shredded cheese. Toss lightly. Pour ½ of the egg custard mixture over, making sure to coat ingredients evenly. Add remaining bread cubes and the rest of the filling. Cover with remaining custard mixture. At this point, everything should look well-soaked, and you should notice a bit of custard pooling at the bottom. If mixture appears dry, whisk another egg with ⅓ cup milk and pour over. Top strata with remaining shredded cheese and fresh herbs. Cover with plastic wrap and chill over night.
- The next morning, preheat oven to 375F. Once heated, bake strata uncovered for about 45 minutes to one hour. If needed, tent with aluminum the last 15 minutes to prevent over-browning. The strata is finished when the custard is set and puffed, with no liquid remaining.
- Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.