Saturday, March 30, 2013
Breakfast Strata, or Savoury Bread Pudding
This started out as French toast, but at some point was derailed and turned into what I was calling savoury French toast, until I realized that it was an actual thing called a strata.
It all began with a breakfast meeting at work that featured a baked challah French toast. Now, I've never been very partial to French toast. In my experience, it's always been store-bought slices of bread dunked in a mixture of eggs and milk and fried, then served with a generous helping of maple syrup. Nothing wrong with that, really, but as far as I'm concerned, utterly boring. There are many other things I'd rather eat in the morning than spongy bread soaked with syrup.
But this French toast - this was something different. It was closer to bread pudding, with thick cubes of challah bread soaked in a vanilla flavoured egg and milk mixture overnight, topped with just a drizzle of caramel sauce, baked until golden and crispy on top and custardy underneath. Before that meeting, French toast did nothing for me, but that challah French toast changed everything.
And, rather fortuitously, I had only just been given a homemade loaf of challah. Clearly the stars had aligned for this French toast. It was destined for me.
So I arrived home and triumphantly announced that I'd had a French toast revelation and knew exactly what we'd be having for breakfast on Good Friday. Only, a certain roommate of mine, who has issues about eating sweet things in the morning, put in a request for a savoury version.
And so, because I am a mostly good friend and roommate, I made a savoury breakfast strata, or bread pudding, or whatever else you might want to call it. Partly also because my roommates and I are all in agreement that if you add cheese to something, it will be awesome.
Which it was - very awesome.
This is the perfect lazy breakfast/weekend brunch dish. All the work, which isn't much, is done the night before, so all you need to do is wake up and pop it in the oven. It's also extremely customizable, so feel free to add in some chopped spinach or kale, switch out the carrots for grated sweet potato, or even zucchini. If you're feeling extra decadent, grate some fresh parmesan on top right before baking for an extra cheesy crust.
1 loaf challah bread, cut into cubes
2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 tbsp oil
3 - 4 tomatoes, diced
2 large carrots, peeled & diced
2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1 cup grated white or old cheddar
7 large eggs
2 cups milk (any fat percentage)
1 tsp ground black pepper
pinch of salt
1. In a frying pan over medium heat, add oil, minced garlic, and chopped onion, and fry until browned, 5 - 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, toss together cubed challah, tomatoes, carrots, fresh parsley, and cheddar. Stir in the fried garlic in onions. Pour mixture into a 9x13 pan that's been greased or lined with parchment paper.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, black pepper, and salt. Pour over bread mixture. Place in the fridge and let sit overnight, or for at least 8 hours.
4. In the morning, preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the strata for 45 - 50 minutes, until the top is crispy and a deep golden brown. Serve immediately. Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 4 days.
(I had a keen observer throughout the photo-shoot.)