Whenever I want to serve a special breakfast/brunch dish that can be enjoyed at any time during the morning, either cold or reheated, a strata fits the bill perfectly. A strata is convenient because it can be prepared the night before and be refrigerated overnight, so that all that has to be done in the morning is heat the oven and pop the pan in to bake. Because a strata is basically a savory bread pudding, the variations are endless, and they’re a great way to use up leftover bread, meats, vegetables, or those last bits of cheese that are hanging around, and they’re perfect for main dishes other times of the day as well.
This recipe, from Cooking Light magazine, is a long-time family favorite of ours. It blends tangy goat cheese into the milk and egg mixture, and the middle is filled with diced ham, artichoke hearts and parmesan cheese. It works perfectly as a main dish any time of day.
Although you don’t have to use lower fat ingredients, I typically keep it lean by using egg substitute and skim milk, and making sure all the fat is trimmed from the ham. And, even though it only calls for a small amount, I also usually skip the nutmeg as it’s a flavor I don’t care for in savory dish (there’s a long story there). I’m not exactly sure about a substitute for the fontina cheese as I always just bought a piece when I make this, but a mild cheese like Jarlsberg would work, I think. Finally, the original recipe asks for sourdough bread, but French bread works just as well. Day-old or leftover bread works better than fresh no matter what bread is chosen.
GOAT CHEESE, ARTICHOKE AND SMOKED HAM STRATA
- 3 1/4 cups low-fat or skim milk, divided
- 1 8-oz. carton egg substitute or 4 large eggs
- 1 4-oz. package goat cheese
- 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, or 1/4 tsp dried
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 10 slices sourdough bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- Cooking spray
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 8 ounces coarsely-chopped smoked ham
- 2 14-oz. cans of artichoke hearts, well-drained and coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese
In either a food processor or blender, combine 1 cup milk, egg substitute or eggs and goat cheese and process until smooth. Add the goat cheese mixture to the remaining 2 1/4 cups milk in a large bowl, then add pepper, thyme, nutmeg and garlic and whisk to combine. Add the bread cubes and stir gently to combine. Let stand for 10 minutes.
Place half of the bread mixture (the cheese/mil mixture will not be completely soaked in) in a 9″ x 13″ pan coated with cooking spray. Arrange the chopped ham, artichoke hearts and Parmesan cheese over the bread mixture, then cover with the remaining bread mixture. Pour any leftover cheese/milk mixture evenly around the pan. Sprinkle the top with the fontina cheese.
The strata can either be baked (uncovered) at this time, or put into the refrigerator to sit overnight for baking in the morning. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until the edges are bubbly. Let stand for at least 15 minutes before serving. Makes 8 servings.