Overnight Ham & Cheese Strata
How did we make it here? Less than a week to go until the big Christmas day. I made 5 dozen peppermint mocha cookies over the weekend in addition to candy cane fudge and cinnamon sugar candied nuts. Ironically, I also hung out with my dentist. (She’s my good friend and loves to bake too!)
While cookies and candies and all the sugars (!!) have been on our minds this month, I’m switching the gears and asking the grand question: what’s everyone making for Christmas brunch?
We’ll be with my side of the family this year and with that comes a whole lot of Christmas brunch tradition. We always start off with this dark chocolate raspberry coffee cake to snack on with coffee, then move on to omelets, fried potatoes and onions, fruit salad, and Grandma’s pecan rolls (that recipe’s in my first cookbook!).
This year, there will be 13 of us so we’re doing things on a slightly larger scale. We’re adding my overnight cinnamon rolls to the brunch line-up (thinking of making the maple version though… thoughts?) and 2 batches of today’s overnight ham and cheese strata. Probably nixing the omelets altogether because this strata is low maintenance and takes about 5 minutes to prep.
More time for family. And PRESENTS! And Christmas dogs.
When I mention low maintenance, I’m not messing around. All you do is put everything into a casserole dish, throw it into the fridge overnight, and bake in the morning. There is no pre-cooking anything. You can buy bread and pre-cooked ham from the store. Or use leftover ham if you’ve got it in the fridge. Not a fan of tomatoes? Leave them out. Want more peppers? Add more in. Low maintenance and LOW KEY.
First, what’s a strata you ask? It’s a layered breakfast casserole with eggs, bread, and cheese. But we’ll add meat and veggies and spices to make it extra fabulous. Strata dishes require a rest to let the eggs soak into the bread, usually an hour or overnight.
This dish is so low maintenance, that it literally needs a nap.
Here’s What We’re Layering:
- Bread, any kind. I recommend a super crispy baguette from the store. Let it sit out overnight. Stale bread is the best for breakfast casseroles.
- Green peppers and tomatoes because green and red! Festive veggies.
- Cooked ham. Lots of it.
- Cheese, any kind. I recommend gouda and mozzarella. That’s what I used in both test batches and Kevin raved about it. He never raves about anything that doesn’t include peanut butter or chicken wings, so this is a major win.
- Eggs and milk. 9 eggs and 2 cups of milk. I recommend whole milk but guess what? I made batch #2 with 1% milk and it was great!
- Spices! We’ll whisk them in with the eggs and milk. 1 teaspoon each: salt, smoked paprika, and ground mustard.
I know, ground mustard?!?! Trust me on this one. The flavor is incredible with the ham and cheese. Your strata will not taste like mustard. You know how you usually add some sort of mustard to deviled eggs? Same thing goes here. Ground mustard is a common ingredient in strata.
Also scallions and fresh ground black pepper for flavor! Are you a fan of spice? A dash of hot sauce is dynamite.
Besides the ease of preparation, something has to be said about this strata’s texture! The bread and eggs create this incredibly chewy, soft, crisp-on-the-edges base. (The edges are definitely the BEST part, by the way.) There’s also plenty of warm melted cheese, an element of savory fresh from tomatoes and peppers, plus lots of wonderfully salty ham. Needless to say, we’ve been madly thankful for all the test batch leftovers lately.
Add this wildly simple casserole to your Christmas brunch!
Overnight Ham & Cheese Strata
- 10 cups cubed bread (I recommend big chunks of a crispy baguette)1
- 1/2 cup diced tomato
- 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper (or any color)
- 2 cups cooked and cubed ham
- 2 cups shredded cheese (I use a mix of gouda and mozzarella)
- 9 large eggs
- 2 cups milk (any kind)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, plus more for topping
- 2 Tablespoons green onion
- Generously grease a 9x13 (or similar size) casserole dish or spray with nonstick spray.
- Layer in the bread, then the peppers, tomatoes, and ham. Sprinkle cheese evenly over top.
- Whisk the eggs, milk, salt, ground mustard, smoked paprika, and pepper together. Pour evenly over other ingredients in the casserole dish. Top with scallions and a little more pepper, if desired.
- Cover tightly and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight (up to 12-16 hours).
- Remove casserole from the refrigerator and allow to sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (191°C).
- Bake casserole, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Loosely cover with aluminum foil for the remaining 20-30 minutes. Casserole is done with browned on the sides and puffy in the center. Mine usually takes about 55 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
- Cover leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave.
Freezing: Prepare through step 3, then cover the casserole with plastic wrap, then a layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature, then continue with step 5.
- Make sure the bread chunks are a little stale. Let the bread sit out overnight.
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