Mushroom and Smoked Cheese Strata

P1000612A strata is a casserole composed of bread soaked in eggs, milk, and cheese and baked until hot and crusty. What makes it so appealing when the holidays arrive is that you assemble it the day before and refrigerate it overnight. About 45 minutes before you plan to serve breakfast, just pop it in the oven and bake until golden brown.

Stratas can include any combination of vegetables or profile just one favorite vegetable with a savory cheese to match. I especially love mushrooms in my strata, but freshly cooked spinach is also delectable. Regarding a cheese choice, I always use a sharp cheddar, or part cheddar and part smoked cheese for a meaty flavor. (Just because I don’t eat meat doesn’t mean I don’t recognize how tasty it can be!) This version that I am sharing with you pairs sauteed mushrooms with smoked mozzarella or smoked gouda.

When it comes to selecting the bread you will cube for the strata, try a firm sourdough or French bread so your strata has some texture.  A soft bread will be acceptable, but will not give a chewy, crusty texture that many people enjoy.

Stratas are the kinds of casseroles that beg for improvisation, so have fun playing with different combinations, and you’ll make this dish a holiday staple.

P1000600Serves 6

2 teaspoons olive oil
4 cups thinly sliced mushrooms, about 12 ounces
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
6 slices good-quality bread, such as sourdough
3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup grated smoked mozzarella or smoked gouda
5 large eggs
Dash nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet and saute the mushrooms until nicely browned. Set aside.

2. Lightly butter a 12 x 7 x 2-inch casserole dish (such as a Pyrex). With the softened butter very lightly butter one side of each slice of bread, then cut int 1/2-inch cubes. Spread the cubes on the bottom of the baking dish.

3. Sprinkle the mushrooms on the bread, the sprinkle on the 2 cheeses.

4.  Beat the eggs with the nutmeg and salt. Beat in the milk and cream.  Pour this custard all over the bread mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

5. Let the casserole stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

6.  Bake, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out dry. Let sit 10 minutes before cutting into squares. Delicious served with homefries or some kind of roasted potatoes.