A Christmas Tradition

breakfast casserole

I’m half Italian. My dad’s father was born in Calabria, Italy. He arrived as a boy in the United States in 1900 through Ellis Island. He was travelling with his father, his pregnant mother and three siblings. The family settled in a duplex in a small town in New Jersey. My great grandfather and great grandmother lived on one side of the duplex, and when my grandfather married, he and his wife raised three children on the other side. My dad and his two sisters were actually born in the house. My father’s sister lived her entire life in the house (she lived to see 100) and her daughter now lives in the home. So you could say our family is steeped in tradition.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes was/is our Christmas Eve tradition. Although the venue changed over the years, the tradition remained. In recent years (like the last two decades), Christmas morning breakfast was added as a tradition with responsibility for the morning’s feast in my hands. Over the years, I experimented with a variety of breakfast foods; everything from frittatas made with leftovers from the night before to labor-intensive giant ravioli stuffed with ricotta and egg yolk. But one of our favorite Christmas morning breakfasts is also one of the easiest and most delicious. This is a dish you can make the night before and pop in the oven in the morning so you have plenty of time to languish with coffee and family while opening presents.

Christmas Morning Strata

8-10 servings

Takes about a half hour to prep, then an hour to bake.

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 2 cups of sliced scallions (green onions)
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • ½ cup grated Romano cheese (can substitute Parmesan)
  • 2 tbsp. fresh oregano or 2 tsp. dried, crumbled
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Ground black pepper, ideally freshly ground
  • 1 pound Italian sausages (hot or mild) with casings removed
  • 1 large red bell pepper, halved, seeded, sliced into ½” wide strips
  • 1 one-pound rustic loaf of French or Italian bread cut into ½” thick slices
  • 2 cups (loosely packed) grated Fontina cheese (or other cheese that melts nicely)
  • Butter for coating the casserole dish

Preparation

Whisk first seven ingredients together in a large bowl. Add ground black pepper to taste. Set aside.

In a large non-stick skillet, place sausage on one side and red pepper on the other. Sautee over high heat breaking up sausage with a fork until sausage is cooked through and peppers are brown in spots; about 7 minutes.

Arrange half the bread slices in a buttered 13” x  9” x  2” casserole. Pour half of the egg mixture on top. Sprinkle with half the cheese and half of the sausage/red pepper mixture. Repeat layering. Let stand 20 minutes if cooking shortly; or can cover and refrigerate overnight. Press down on the bread at least once to make sure everything is submerged.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake uncovered for about an hour until the Strada is puffed and brown. Cool slightly. Eat!

Very nice served with fresh fruit or a simple green salad. Let’s not forget the mimosas, bloody Mary’s, screwdrivers, and/or salty dogs. And coffee.

Hope you try this strata and, perhaps, it can become a tradition for your family too. Even if you’re not Italian.

Based on an Epicurious.com recipe.

 

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