Cooking: Stress-free strata for Christmas morning

Cooking: Stress-free strata for Christmas morning

Strata with Spinach, Bacon, Mushrooms and Gruyere Cheese

By Barbara Beltrami

Phew! Here it is Christmas Eve. Shopping done, presents wrapped, cookies baked, cards addressed and mailed (or not). And tomorrow is Christmas morning. Let’s see. OK, checklist: The kids put out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer and they have to get eaten; we’ve made sure the chimney is clear for Santa; better peek in and be sure the kids are finally asleep and dreaming of sugar plums, then put presents under the tree; and finally make strata for Christmas breakfast and put it in the refrigerator.

Strata? What’s that? It’s a wonderful eggy casserole-type dish with bread and whatever else you want to add — ham, cheese, bacon, sausage, cheese, onion, mushroom, spinach, broccoli, tomato, green pepper, fruit — whatever you’d put in an omelet or frittata or anything that strikes your fancy. It’s assembled ahead of time so the bread can soak up all the eggy liquid, then refrigerated and the next morning popped into the oven to bake while you sit and watch the kids open their presents.

Tip: It tastes best if you eat it while you’re in your pajamas.

Strata with Spinach, Bacon, Mushrooms and Gruyere Cheese

Strata with Spinach, Bacon, Mushrooms and Gruyere Cheese

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon butter

1 pound ready-to-eat crescent rolls, torn into chunks

12 large eggs

2½ cups half-and-half

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1 pound crispy bacon, crumbled

1 pound fresh spinach, cooked and squeezed dry

½ pound fresh mushrooms, sliced thin

¾ pound Gruyere cheese, shredded

DIRECTIONS: Grease a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with butter. Place half the crescent roll pieces evenly on bottom. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, salt and pepper, cayenne and nutmeg. Pour half the egg mixture over the crescent pieces. Let sit about 15 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Evenly distribute bacon, spinach, mushrooms and Gruyere in separate layers over soaked crescents. Top with remaining crescent pieces, then pour remaining liquid over them. Press down to ensure that all pieces are immersed. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove plastic wrap. Bake strata for 45 minutes to one hour, until top is golden and a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve with hot coffee, tea or cocoa and a fruit salad.

Strata with Sausage, Eggs and Cheddar Cheese

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

12 one-inch-thick slices of rustic white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

½ cup cooked crumbled sausage meat

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

12 large eggs

2½ cups half-and-half

1 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard

DIRECTIONS: Combine the bread, sausage and cheese and pour into a greased 9- by 13-inch baking dish. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, half-and-half and mustard; pour over bread mixture and press bread down to be sure all cubes are immersed in liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350 F, remove plastic wrap and place strata in oven. Bake for one hour, until top is golden and a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve hot or warm.

Strata with Pears, Raisins and Pecans

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

One 1-pound loaf cinnamon raisin bread, cubed

1½ cups diced, pared and cored pears

1 cup raisins

²⁄₃ cup coarsely chopped pecans

10 large eggs

2½ cups half-and-half

4 tablespoons melted butter

1⁄₃ cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS: Combine bread, pears, raisins and pecans; pour into a 9- by 13-inch greased baking dish. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, butter, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Pour over bread mixture and press top to make sure all bread pieces are immersed in liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 325 F. Remove plastic wrap; bake strata 45 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean and top is golden. Serve hot or warm with bacon, or sausage, maple syrup and hot coffee, tea or cocoa.

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