Strata: the perfect morning treat

I have a little tradition I thought I’d share today since there is still time to plan your Christmas morning meal if you haven’t already done so. Of course, this idea would work for any morning, not just Christmas. In fact, I’ve made this tasty treat for other occasions including a Sunday brunch and New Year’s Day.

I love making Strata on Christmas because you can do all of the prep the day before, and the final result is very savory and decadent. On Christmas morning (or the morning of your brunch or other event) you just wake up, take the Strata out of the fridge, let it sit for half an hour, and then bake it for an hour or so. No work!

Before I go any further, let me state: do not use a glass dish for this! The first year I made this on Christmas, my hubby and I were opening gifts and drinking coffee and enjoying the wonderful smell of the Strata baking away in the oven. It was feeling perfect. I took the Strata (in a glass dish) out of the oven, placed it on the counter to cool, and went back to the living room.

About ten minutes later we heard a huge explosion in the kitchen. Terrified, I ran out only to discover that the glass dish had shattered and exploded and forced thousands of shards of glass into the beautiful Strata! Nooooooooo!!!!

I cried.

My sweet hubby insisted on trying to still eat some, until I pointed out that there was no way to get all the glass out. We had to throw the entire thing away and it was sooooo sad.

The same exact thing happened to a Strata at a friend’s brunch a few months later. As her Strata was cooling in a glass dish on the counter, it exploded. Sigh. Lessons learned.

But this is wonderful in a ceramic dish. I’ve made it about six times over the years, and it always turns out great. Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of the process to share with you since I won’t be prepping this until Thursday and I wanted to give you enough time to plan to make this for Christmas, if you’d like.

The original recipe was from Epicurious. You may be able to search their archives to find it. But here are the ingredients and steps:

  • 1 ten oz package frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • cubed Italian or French bread (about 8 cups… I usually use more like 9 or 10 cups)
  • 6 oz coarsely grated Gruyere cheese
  • 2 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 9 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper

1. Squeeze as much water as possible from the thawed spinach and then finely chop.

2. Cook the onion in the butter in a heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring until soft, 4 – 5 minutes. Add a dash of salt and pepper, and the nutmeg. Cook, stirring, for one more minute. Stir in the spinach and remove from heat.

3. Butter a gratin dish or other shallow ceramic baking dish. (Do not use a glass dish unless you crave disaster.) I use a 9 x 13 inch ceramic dish.

4. Spread 1/2 of the cubed bread in the dish, followed by half of the spinach mixture and half of both cheeses. Repeat with the remaining ingredients (ending with cheese).

5. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, mustard, and a dash of salt and pepper. Pour evenly over the bread/spinach/cheese in the baking dish.

6. Cover tightly in plastic wrap and (this is the best part) put it in the fridge overnight.

7. When you wake up, take the Strata out of the fridge and let it stand at room temperature for 30-45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

8. Remove plastic wrap and bake the Strata uncovered until puffed and golden brown, 45-55 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Have you ever had a glass dish explode? (Or is it just me?) What are you making on Christmas morning?

Note: If you are in the mood for a funny holiday movie that features a Strata disaster, check out The Family Stone.

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5 Responses to Strata: the perfect morning treat

  1. Erika Holster says:

    Hey! This reminds me of our family tradition here at the Holster house where every Chistmas Eve we eat breakfast for dinner. This started when my kids were 2 and 4, and cooking a fancy meal was simply not an option for my husband or I. Now my kiddos are in elementary school and they still love breakfast for Christmas Eve dinner! I hope I can keep this easy little tradition up for a few years longer.

  2. kate78 says:

    Yum! I would gladly ignore my gluten intollerance for a couple bites of that dilicious dish!

  3. amyp says:

    Hi! I’ve just recently found your blog and I really enjoy it. The strata sounds amazing. We’ll definitely be trying that soon at our house! To answer your question, YES! I have had a glass dish explode like you described and it was terrifying! Except that it was a glass bowl that I was washing in the sink. It literally exploded in my hands, into millions of tiny shards. I cut my finger in the process but it scared me more than anything. I’m not sure why glassware does that sometimes. I think they make it differently these days than they used to… my mom has pyrex that has lasted for years with no incident. Oh well… thank you for warning your readers about the possibility of this happening. I’m just thankful that I wear glasses, for one, and that I didn’t have small children at the time our bowl exploded. What a mess. : )
    Have wonderful Christmas!

  4. Lindsay says:

    Erika – simple traditions are always the best.

    Kate – you could probably substitute gluten free bread, especially if you let it get a little stale and crusty first.

    Amy – sorry about your glass incident, but glad to know I’m not the only one! I think it has something to do with the temperature change, but hopefully I’ll never have to test that theory again. I also have vintage Pyrex that has lasted forever, so I think you’re right about it being made to stand the test of time.

  5. MM says:

    I have heard of Corning doing the same thing only in the microwave. I had never heard of a dish exploding in this manner. Sounds terrible and dangerous. =-( I want to try this stratta soon–perhaps New Year’s morning.

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