Christmas morning is quite possibly my favorite time of the entire year. Presents have been wrapped and exchanged, family is gathered together, Christmas Eve dinner leaves lots of leftovers for snacking during the day but oh yeah, what can I serve for Christmas brunch that doesn’t take me away from sitting and savoring that most special time of the year. If you’ve never tried making a strata, it’s my perfect solution. It’s a one-dish meal that has it all — eggs, sausage, cheese, bread and a couple of veggies. You can assemble it in about 30 minutes the night before, let it rest in the fridge and on Christmas morning, just pull it out and bake for about an hour while letting the festivities begin. It smells divine and tastes even better. Simple deliciousness that lets you be part of the party instead of in the kitchen. I don’t know about you but this is one day that I don’t want to miss even one moment of.
Simple Sausage Strata
This recipe is for 4 – 5 servings but you can double it, like the original from Bon Appetit and make it for 8-10.
Ingredients: 3 large eggs/ 1 1/2 cups whole milk/ 1 cup sliced green onions/ 1/3 cup whipping cream/ 1/2 cup grated hard cheese – parm, romano, pecorino/ 1T chopped fresh parsley/ Salt and pepper to taste/ 1/2 lb Italian sausage, casings removed (I used a combo of mild and spicy)/ 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into wide strips (since bell peppers aren’t in season, I used some pickled peppers instead)/ About 1/2 loaf of sliced French bread, stale is fine/ 1 cup of grated cheese, I used Beecher’s Flagship cheddar but see what you have in the fridge — fontina is great too.
Directions: Butter a baking dish/ Whisk the first 7 ingredients together, seasoning with salt & pepper/ Saute sausage until brown, breaking up with fork/ If you’re using fresh bell peppers, saute them at the same time on the other side of the skillet.
Arrange half bread slices in one layer in buttered baking dish/ Pour 1/2 egg mixture over the bread/ Sprinkle with 1/2 grated cheese and 1/2 sausage, laying pepper strips over top/ Repeat the layering – bread, then rest of egg mixture, then cheese and sausage, topping with pepper strips/ Press lightly to submerge bread in liquid/ Cover and let it sit in fridge for several hours or overnight (if you’re in a hurry, you can let it stand for as little as 20 minutes)/ In the morning, remove from the fridge and preheat oven to 350/ Bake until it’s puffy and brown, about 1 hour/ Cool slightly before serving.
Once you’ve got the basic idea, you can vary the recipe — take out the sausage and add more veggies for a vegetarian dish, maybe even leave out the bread for a gluten-free version, like a crustless quiche. It’s surprisingly light for a meal so incredibly comforting. A green or fruit salad would make an excellent accompaniment — a Bloody Mary, even better but that’s another story.