We’re in the midst of a heat wave and as the mercury skyrockets, it raises the topic of quick, easy meals that keeps us out of the frying pan and that much closer to the pool and the pina coladas.
Want a tasty meal that appeals to just about everyone? Make a strata. Not only is this a dish that can be made 4-24 hours in advance, you’re likely to have all the ingredients on hand.
This is not a fancy meal, requiring a lot of work. Basically, it’s similar to quiche, frittata, omelets, and even plain, old scrambled eggs. But in addition to its versatility, it’s also a nice enough dish to serve to company on a hot day, accompanied by a salad.
How much labor are we talking about? You have to butter some bread, cut it into cubes, chop some onion, and unless you want to buy shredded cheddar, the minute it takes to prep your cheese. You’ll beat a few eggs and measure some ingredients. In other words, if you think of scrambled eggs as an easy meal, strata is going to send you over the top.
What’s the difference between strata and quiche? No crust to get soggy. Instead, the strata uses the bread cubes to make it a light, fluffy dish, almost souffle-like.
Want to have some fun? Experiment with your favorite types of cheese. I’ve used cheddar, Monterey jack, and a mix of mozzarella and Parmesan. This is a dish that’s hard to screw up. In fact, probably your only issue will be if you undercook it. You want it to come out of the oven with a golden crust.
I’ve used whole grain bread and it’s been okay, but like a bread pudding, this dish benefits from the lightness of a simple white bread.
Here’s the recipe:
BASIC STRATA (SERVES 4)
6 slices of buttered bread, cubed
1/2 pound of cheddar cheese
2 cups of milk (I use non-fat, but use what you like)
4 beaten eggs
1 tsp dry or prepared mustard
1-2 teaspoons minced onion (I like vidalia or Texas sweet)
Seasoning — cayenne, salt and pepper, even Adobo (I use about 3/4 teaspoon of Goya Adobo)
In a greased 8×8 dish, place the buttered bread cubes and cheese. Mix the milk, eggs, mustard, onion and seasonings together in a bowl and pour over the bread and cheese.
Refrigerate for at least four hours, but less than twenty-four hours.
Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes, until golden and set.
You can vary the ingredients for strata — add sausage, ham, bacon, or veggies. Anything you enjoy in an omelet is good in a strata.
This is a great dish for two, especially if you like leftovers. I like mine with hot sauce.
I often serve it with roasted, seasoned potatoes. I microwave potatoes early in the day and when I’m ready to bake the strata, I cut them up, season them, and toss them with a little olive oil before spreading them out on a sheet pan. These can go into the oven at the same temperature as the strata, for about 20-30 minutes. Toss them occasionally for even browning.