santa's cookies are gone. they were buttery-crisp shortbread circles with cream cheese frosting and plenty of green and red sprinkles--the kind of cookies that are as fleeting as christmas itself. jimmy's cookies, they are called. jimmy, you are on the naughty list. i could go on about the cookies, but this is about strata.
if you are unfamiliar with strata, let me just describe it as breakfast casserole and hope you trust me enough to read on. someone in my family clipped it from the pages of bon appetit in december 1997 and it has been our treasure ever since. it is my go-to recipe for any special morning when i want to channel all of my attention to the people i am with and noticing what they are doing.
you make the strata the night before and it does magical things in the refrigerator overnight (did santa bless it? i will never know). when you are ready, you pop it in the oven for an hour while guests and neighbors are tortured by the scent of bubbling cheese, eggs, cream, herbs, smoked ham, artichoke hearts, and garlic, all strewn over milk-soaked sourdough bread. if you've set the table the night before, all that's left to do is call everyone to it.
some fresh fruit on the side is a nice counterpart to the strata's richness. of course, a steaming cup of coffee or a mimosa also does the trick. a little late, but i wish you a merry christmas with a recipe in time for the first morning of 2012.
christmas morning strata
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 cups 1-inch cubed sourdough bread (crusts trimmed before cubing)
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
5 extra large eggs
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried herbes de Provence
12 ounces soft fresh goat cheese (i use laura chenel), crumbled (about 3 cups)
12 ounces smoked ham, chopped into 1/4-inch cubes
3 6 1/2-ounce jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained and halved lengthwise
1 cup (packed) grated fontina cheese
1 1/2 cups (packed) grated Parmesan
butter a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish or large ceramic baking dish. whisk milk and oil in large bowl. stir in bread and toss gently to coat. let stand until liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.
whisk cream, eggs, garlic, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a large measuring cup or bowl. mix herbs in separate small bowl to combine
place half of bread mixture in the prepared dish. top with half of the goat cheese, ham, artichoke hearts, herbs, and cheeses. pour half of cream mixture over everything. repeat layering with remaining bread, goat cheese, ham, artichoke hearts, herbs, cheeses, and cream mixture. cover and refrigerate overnight.
when ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°. bake uncovered until firm in center and golden-brown and bubbly, about 1 hour. let stand for 5 - 10 minutes before serving to your hungry crowd.
* i use smoked black forest ham and ask the deli to slice the pieces into 1/2-inch thick ham steaks. this makes for easier "cubing."
* in a pinch, i've used canned, non-marinated artichoke hearts. still amazing.
* adapted from bon appetit, december 1997
* if you are looking for a great, make-ahead dish on the sweet side, may i recommend this terrific creme brulee french toast?