Strata, a savory bread pudding typically served for breakfast or brunch, is a simple way to turn stale bread into a satisfying meal. No need to wait around for your bread to stale, however. Lightly toasted fresh bread works just as well. Named for the layered arrangement of bread and other ingredients, strata can be made with any vegetables, cheeses or meats that are also suitable for quiche. For delicious entertaining, assemble the strata in advance and store it in the refrigerator overnight until you are ready to bake it for brunch.
Prepare several large slices of crusty bread. If you are using fresh bread, lightly toast it. Cut the toasted or stale bread into large cubes.
Grease a medium baking dish or an ovenproof skillet with softened butter, and spread half of the cubed bread inside.
Sprinkle a couple handfuls of shredded cheese, cooked vegetables, cooked meat or a combination of the three on top of the bread. It is important to precook the vegetables and proteins to prevent them from watering down the strata.
Top the strata with the remaining bread and another couple handfuls of cheese, vegetables or meat.
In a separate bowl, whisk together half a dozen eggs and about a cup of milk or half-and-half. Season the egg mixture with salt and pepper.
Pour the egg mixture over the layered bread. There should be enough liquid to come almost to the top of the last layer. If necessary, add more milk or half-and-half to bring the liquid to the appropriate level.
Cover the strata with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator overnight, or until you are ready to bake it for brunch. To ensure that the bread cubes are evenly saturated, keep the strata weighed down while it is in the refrigerator. A bag of dry rice will do the trick.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bake the strata for about 45 minutes to an hour, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. The strata should be puffed and golden brown.
Cool the strata slightly before serving.
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