Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. Not just because it is nutritious and wakes our brains up and gives us energy to have a productive day. No, I like breakfast because I enjoy getting creative and experimenting in the kitchen! Breakfast has so many delicious and fun ways of doing so, I have lost count. Not to mention that breakfast is the best meal of the day to use up leftovers, which end up somehow being better than the original meal they were cooked with. I’m not sure the science behind that phenomenon, but go figure.
This bring me to the whole reason for this post. Strata. It has quickly become one f my favorite things to cook because it is basically comprised entirely of leftovers. Really it’s just bread, eggs, cheese and milk. That makes up the structure, and there are usually extra of all these t any given time in most people’s refrigerator. Anything beyond these parts is where you can get creative and really experiment with complimentary flavors and textures. For this recipe, I used caramelized mushrooms and onions because I really like them, and always make extra for just such an occasion.
Speaking of which! Caramelizing is a fantastic skill to have in your arsenal. Whether you are cooking sugar or vegetables, caramelization ups the flavor and texture of certain foods exponentially. You can find a much more in depth description of caramelizing vegetables here. (And if you have a sweet tooth here for a look at working with sugar!)
You can use pretty much any leftovers in your fridge for a strata though. Steak from last night, cooked greens, leftover vegetables, potatoes…the list goes on…
Another beautiful thing about making a strata is that you can make it the night before to save considerable time in the morning. In fact, you kind of have to make it the night before so that the bread absorbs all the liquid. If you are like me, that means you are not a morning person by nature. So if your idea of great breakfast means just turning on the oven and baking (and I can completely understand if you do), then this is the breakfast for you!
So, umm, lets get to it!
CARAMELIZED MUSHROOM AND ONION STRATA
2 medium sized onions
2 packages of button or cremini mushrooms
1 cup melted marscarpone cream cheese
1+1/2 cups while milk
1 cup shredded melting cheese such as cheddar or gruyere
fresh herbs to taste (thyme and rosemary work very well)
1 loaf of crusty bread
salt and pepper to taste
Like I said, you can do this the night before (or even a couple days really). The key to making this is to separately cook the ingredients that need it and bring them together at the very end. So caramelize your mushrooms, caramelize your onions, and reserve both. While you are cooking those, turn your oven on to 350 ºF. Cut your loaf of bread into 1 inch-ish cubes and toast in the oven until the bread is dry and toasty. Once this is done and the veggies are cooked, cool for 10 or 15 minutes. While that cools, mix the eggs, melted marscarpone (or cream cheese), milk, and a heavy pinch of salt and pepper thoroughly in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the onions, mushrooms, shredded cheese, bread, and 3/4 of the herbs thoroughly.
In a large baking dish or cast iron skillet, pour in the bread/cheese/veggie mix and cover with the wet egg mixture. It will look like waay too much liqid, but trust in the strata! cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
The next morning you will be happy to see that the bread has absorbed all of the liquid. Turn your oven on to 350 ºF and bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour. You will know that it is finished when the top is browned and crusty. Once out of the oven. cool for 10 minutes and top with the rest of the herbs. Serve in squared and enjoy!
Although this breakfast takes some planning the night before, it is well worth it. Don’t believe me???! well, then give it a try yourself and leave a comment below to let me know how yours turned out.