Thursday, January 15, 2015

Pantry Raid: Ham and Cheese Strata

Waste not, want not, as the saying goes—and (for the most part) it's very true. I try to save as much as possible, from decent-sized scraps from my latest craft project, to odds and ends in the kitchen. They may not seem like much in themselves, but eventually they can be used to help me make something greater than the sum of its parts.

Soups and stews are surefire ways to utilize leftover food, but a casserole often does the trick quite nicely. Since I always have milk and eggs in the fridge, my go-to dish is usually a strata. You may call it a breakfast casserole or an egg bake—for that matter, you might even call it Lady Jane Grey, because I guarantee it won't last long once you make it! By their very nature, my stratas differ from one to the next. When asked how I make them, I usually try to change the subject, because I don't really know the answer—they just kind of make themselves. However, I was sure to pay attention this time and take note of exactly what and how much I used.

ham cheese strata breakfast casserole

The beauty of this "recipe" is the ease with which you can mix and match the ingredients. I used 8 eggs, but anything from 6 to 9 will work perfectly well. Whole milk was on hand, but half and half or heavy cream are excellent substitutes if you have some that needs using. Cheese is optional, but highly encouraged—up to two cups of your choice for this size pan. I had some bread in the freezer for the base, but leftover roasted potatoes or home fries are delicious. Have some leftover grilled or sauteed veggies? Chop them up and throw them in as well. In place of the ham I used here, crumbled bacon or chopped, cooked breakfast sausage are perfect—or leave the meat out altogether. Dried tarragon I had from my garden, but thyme or rosemary would also be lovely. The best part is that stratas are very easy to make, and don't take much time to cook. Savings all 'round!

Ham and Cheese Strata

Ham and Cheese Strata

1/2 loaf sourdough bread (about 1/2 lb.), torn or cubed into 1-inch pieces
6 oz. black forest ham, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
8 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried tarragon, crumbled (or dried thyme/rosemary)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease a 9 x 13-inch pan (I used some bacon fat I had saved) and spread the bread evenly over the bottom. Scatter the ham over it and then sprinkle on the cheese. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, mustard and tarragon. Add a few pinches of salt and several grinds of pepper (if using something very salty like bacon, you may want to omit adding any salt at this stage). Pour egg mixture over everything in the pan and let sit for 5-15 minutes so the bread can absorb some of the liquid, then bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges are golden and bubbly and the eggy custard is set. Let cool for 10-15 minutes or to room temperature before serving—with some homemade tomato jam, of course :-)



  1. Thanks for this recipie! Stratas are a new favorite! I love the idea of using leftovers. Speaking of, I just made a beef pot pie last night using leftover christmas pot roast that I froze. Yum! Leftovers are the best!


Please share your thoughts and experience!