The first time I tasted an egg strata was at my cousin Christa’s house in Wisconsin. It’s a great dish to make for brunches because you can assemble it the night before and throw it in the oven 45 minutes before you want to eat it. It’s filling and offers everything in one dish that you should ideally start your day with (protein, grain, and vegetable).
One thing you need to bear in mind when you make an egg strata is that you must let it sit at least for one hour before baking so that the toast becomes saturated with the egg and milk mixture.
My recipe calls for a lot of eggs and if that makes you hesitant you need to consider that this recipe generously serves 8 people (or can be cut even smaller if you have other dishes to serve) which means that each serving has just 1 1/2 eggs in it. That’s not too many eggs to eat for breakfast!
About the bread. Most strata recipes call for good quality French bread or a brioche loaf. I used a great local bread called “sesame white” which has good flavor and no gluey factor. We usually use whole wheat bread and I would wholeheartedly suggest you use wheat if you have it. However, I buy the sesame white to make croutons with (because they dry nice and light and not hard) and so this is what I had the first time I made it. I liked it so much that I bought more sesame white. Bread comes in all shapes and sizes so how much bread you’ll need to toast may vary a little from what I used. Keep that in mind. This is a regular sliced sandwich bread size. If you use a french bread the slices may be half the size of what I used.
Egg stratas lend themselves to lots of variations and I encourage you to play with the possibilities!
Tomato and Basil Strata
8 slices of good quality bread
1 tbsp butter for greasing your baking dish
2 cups milk
10 large basil leaves (or one small bunch) julienned
1 tsp salt
30 grinds of pepper
6 large tomatoes
2 cups grated jack cheese
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Place the bread slices on baking sheets and toast them until lightly
toasted and dried out. Be sure to turn them over so they get toasted on
Meanwhile, beat the eggs and milk together and then add the basil, salt, and pepper to it and beat a little more to mix well.
Slice the tomatoes in rounds (somewhere between 1/4″ and 3/8″ thick is good).
Grease a 9×13″ baking dish with butter. When the toast is ready layer
the bottom of the baking dish with them. It was helpful with the shape
of my bread to break the slices up a bit to fit them in well.
Cover the toast with a layer of sliced tomatoes. Make a second layer of
toast and beat the eggs again before
pouring evenly over the whole dish. Place a second layer of tomatoes on the top, cover the baking dish, and let it sit
for at least an hour.
Twenty minutes before it’s ready to be baked, turn your oven on to 350
degrees. The strata will take 45 minutes to cook. I don’t put
the grated cheese on the top until it’s been in for a half an hour.
After it’s cooked for 40 minutes at 350 I put the broiler on and let the
cheese get bubbly and slightly browned, which in my oven takes about 5
These are some of the most beautiful tomatoes I’ve ever seen! The first layer were all red ones. I liked the mix a lot.
Recipe Notes: You can use whatever kind of cheese you like that melts well. Jack is one of my very favorite cheeses for covering casseroles with but a gruyere would also be really nice. My mom thought I should have used more basil but I didn’t want the herb flavor to overpower the flavor of the tomatoes which were at their peak of flavor. I nearly always use a 2% milk but you can use whole milk or skim if you prefer. I know some recipes even call for cream.