I dream of going to Italy someday, because, let’s get real, I love Italian Food!! No, make that, I LOVE ITALIAN FOOD!!! Everything from the innocent cannoli to the very finest steak pizzaiola, from the very pointed toe of that geographical boot to the 6″ heel to the thigh-high upper cuff — yes, I just kinda redesigned Italy to suit my own fashion taste, as I do with everything — I just make it my own.
I first started making strata before I really knew what it was; unbenownst to me it had been around for ages. Mixing bread, eggs, veggies, cheese and meat was just something I had concocted, but I learned how to prepare it the authentic way in 1989 from a fantastic chef I knew named Domenico, in Big Sur at the fabulous River Inn (still my favorite job of all time) http://www.bigsurriverinn.com . That was when I understood how excellent it could be with a few tricks he taught me!!!
For one thing, it must be assembled the night before and left to rest overnight in the fridge, and for another, it should be baked at 400ºF, a higher temperature than I had previously been using. That’ll make it nice and brown — in fact I let it almost burn a little around the edges because, well, as they DON’T say in Italy, dagnabbit, I like burnt cheese! Don’t know anybody that doesn’t! (One of my first-ever culinary creations as a kid was burnt cheese on tin foil — sooooo good!) Anyhow, it’s such a tasty and easy weekend brunch-type item, I just wanted to share it, so here it is in all its glory!!!
Beautiful Italian Strata:
Have ready a baking bowl, casserole or pan, well oiled, along with:
1 loaf of stale French or sourdough bread, sliced
1 10-12 oz. package of good cheese (I used Muenster in this one)
1 package of Prosciutto
Lighty roasted veggies of choice (leftovers work great in this — I used broccoli and zucchini from the night before)
2 cups milk
Salt and pepper to taste but remember that the meat and cheese is salty, so go easy.
Layer starting with bread, then veggies, meat and cheese in that order, repeat as necessary. You might not need the whole loaf of bread; I usually have about a third of a loaf left! Always end with the cheese.
Now mix together eggs and milk and pour over the whole deal, and take a spatula and press down all over casserole, till the egg/milk mixture is soaked up. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
The next morning while brewing your coffee, just preheat oven to 375ºF-400ºF depending on your oven and whether you are using a convection fan. (Convection swirls the heat around the oven and makes things brown more evenly and usually takes less time.) Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, i.e. until a tooth pick comes out clean and the top and sides are good and brown. Remove to the top of the stove and let rest for half an hour. Serve, either with a sauce, or salsa or nothing at all! Delish every way!
And as always , Enjoy!!!
LIVE, LOVE, LAUGH, COOK!!!
© Jennifer Green Alger 2010