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Asparagus, Ham and Mushroom Strata

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Serves 8

  • by Tony Rosenfeld from Big Buy Cooking

Looking for the perfect make-ahead for Easter brunch? You can assemble the strata, which is like an Italian quiche, but instead of a pastry crust, leftover bread forms the egg custard base, up to two days before brunch and bake it just before serving. Trim the bread's crust for a neat and pretty dish, or leave it intact for a heartier texture.

  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, more for the pan
  • 1 lb asparagus, ends snapped off, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3-1/2 oz. oyster mushrooms (or shiitake or white mushrooms), stemmed and thinly sliced
  • 6 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced, white and green parts separated (1/2 cup green, 2 Tbs. white)
  • 9 large eggs, beaten
  • 2-3/4 cups milk (preferably whole)
  • 1 large loaf (about 1 lb.) rustic white bread (like ciabatta), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 8 oz. thinly sliced deli ham, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 3 cups grated extra sharp Cheddar (about 8 oz.)

Melt the butter in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the spears start to brown and soften, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and scallion whites and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms soften and cook through, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for a couple of minutes.

Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish. Whisk the eggs with the milk and 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper. Spread half the bread in a single layer on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with half the egg mixture and then cover with half the ham, cheese, and asparagus mixture, and sprinkle with half the scallion greens. Repeat with the remaining bread, custard, ham, cheese, asparagus mixture, and scallions. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing down so the bread is completely submerged in the egg mixture, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 2 days before baking.

Put a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Let the strata sit at room temperature while the oven heats. Bake until the custard sets and the top browns, about 30 minutes. Loosely cover with foil and bake for another 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, cut into square pieces, and serve.

Made this for New Year's Day brunch and it was a huge hit. This recipe is a keeper!

A strata's a strata's a strata, but in fact this one is a good combination of flavors. I used a pack of dried shitakes which held up well during baking. I guess it depends on how dense the bread you use it, but I probably will cut it down by about 1/4 to 1/3 next time. I like the two-layer structure.

I have made this three times and it was a HUGE success every time. Extremely tasty and would definitely make it again. It must be made the day before and I would also suggest try using as much bread as you can to soak up all the liquid. The second time I made it, it was a bit runny - I skimped on the bread. Won't do that the next time.

This is delicious! I put it together the evening before baking the next morning. A note to purefog: the recipe clearly states using the ingredients, including the bread, to make a second layer. It all comes out perfectly! I will definitely made this again, esp. for house guests.

I've made this as a pretty luncheon dish, along with a salad, for eight women (made 1-1/2 times the recipe and a larger baking dish), who thoroughly enjoyed it. Great chick food, but also was nice to cut the recipe in half for an 8x8-inch baking dish for supper for husband and myself. Didn't change a thing first time out, though creminis -- or the wild mushroom mix when they're on sale -- were a good sub for the oyster mushrooms.

Uh -- the way this recipe is actually WRITTEN, I am left with a half-loaf of cubed ciabatta. One might GUESS that it is to be added after the first layer of everything. However, it is simply omitted from the recipe. Oops.

This was super easy to put together and very tasty! I made this strata along with the Leek and Morel Strata for a party and this one was a bigger hit.

I recently made this for a client's party and it was fabulous! It received rave reviews and the dish was empty at the end of the brunch. I added my own touch to the recipe by including other vegetables and seasonings. Give it a try; I'm sure it is fantastic as written here. - Karen McGinn, Personal Chef, HEAVEN ON A PLATE Personal Chef Service

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