One of my favorite holiday recipes has absolutely nothing to do with dinner or dessert. I’ve had this strata recipe for years, and it comes from the kitchen of Anne Morse. My former husband and I enjoyed many gourmet dinners with Anne and her husband Andy as part of a couples’ gourmet club in the 1980s and 1990s. They hosted fabulous New Year’s Eve parties, too. The lucky ones who got to spend the night were treated to this the next morning. I don’t recall it being a cure for a hangover, but it certainly helps get one’s new year off to a good start. My tradition since marrying John is to serve this beautiful strata on Christmas morning, accompanied by crisp bacon, perhaps some fresh fruit, and steaming mugs of tea (for John) and coffee (for me). It’s a great stick-to-your-ribs breakfast on a cold morning. I use sharp cheddar rather than mild, herbs and seasonings from Penzeys, and for this particular occasion I bought good semolina bread from Whole Foods. Any white bread will do—I’ve even used baguettes—just so long as the bread is dense and has had a chance to get slightly stale. If it’s too soft you can slice it and leave it sit on the counter for a few hours.
The recipe serves as many as six, but if you’re feeding a crowd you can easily double it (using two soufflé dishes, of course). Just pay careful attention to the note about doubling that follows. And take special note of the timings. Enjoy, and Happy New Year!
Dory’s New Year Strata
1 pound cheddar cheese, grated
1-1/2 Tablespoons dry minced onion
1 Tablespoon dry chopped parsley
Approximately 9 slices firm white bread
Salt and white pepper
3 cups milk*
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Grease a medium large casserole with high sides—I use a soufflé dish. Line the bottom with bread. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, followed by 1/3 of the onion, 1/3 of the parsley, and 1/3 of the grated cheese. Repeat this process two times. Beat eggs lightly, then add milk, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard. Pour the egg-milk mixture over the contents of the casserole.** Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in the refrigerator for 8 hours. In the morning, remove from the refrigerator and let rest on the counter at room temperature for 2 hours. Bake uncovered for 50 minutes at 375-degrees.
*If doubling the recipe to serve 12 instead of 6, use only five cups of milk.
**I find two tricks help avoid a mess when adding the milk mixture to the strata. First, poke a few holes in the top of the strata so the milk can more easily seep down into the bottom of the dish. Second, place the dish on a baking sheet to catch any overflow. Wipe away any drips and place the entire apparatus—soufflé dish on top of the baking sheet—in the oven.