When I left home I copied all of my favorite recipes from my mother’s recipe box. Strada is one of those easy to make and infinitely flexible dishes that can be adapted to breakfast, brunch, lunch, potluck, or dinner. One more of Jan’s friends from high school is joining us for breakfast, so I decided to make a breakfast strada.
Note: Ever have one of those weekends when you are cooking constantly, but there is no time to post the recipes? This is yesterdays breakfast. Yet to come, when I get around to writing them up, is Friday’s Yosenabe, Saturday’s Chicken Florentine, and tonight’s Pork Roast with Apples.
Looking on-line I found some confusion about the name. Even though they are clearly the same dish, some called it a strada—Italian for road—and others called it a strata—Italian for layer. All of the recipes using the term strada appear to be family recipes, handed down through the generations.
It is unclear which way the linguistic drifted. Was it originally strada—food for the road—because it is commonly used in potlucks? Or did it start out strata—when some chef layered the ingredients? It could also be that if you layer the ingredients it is a strata and if you mix it all together it is a strada. Whichever way it tastes just as good.
I decided to layer my ingredients, but just a bit. Chef made stratas (stratii?) generally start with a layer of whole slices of bread. This may be easier if you start with square slices, but I usually start with a rustic loaf. Like my mother I cube the bread and pour it in. This also creates nooks and crannies for the other ingredients to work their way into, even if you do not mix them all together.
Two of my guests do not eat pork (ethical not religious reasons), so I went with breakfast chicken sausages from Trader Joe’s. In conversation at breakfast one of these women announced that she had read the packaging on some Trader Joe’s sausages and that they used pig casings. That may have been true for the larger sausages, but double checking I found that it is not true for the breakfast links. However, if you are devout Hindu there may still be a problem, since the these casings are made of beef.
Note: Here is a discussion thread on the subject.
I am using low fat cheese in this dish, Cabot Sharp Light Chedar. Jan has found that this is the only low fat cheese that melts properly—the others she has tried look and taste like plastic when they are melted. This is she favorite cheese for melted cheese sandwiches.
To pack in some vegetables, I added caramelized onions. I also added some red and green bell peppers on top to add some color. Finally, I decided to add a can of diced chilies to give it a touch of spice.
Karl’s Chicken Sausage Breakfast Strada (Strata)
1 loaf Filone bread
12 chicken sausage breakfast links
1 Tbs. butter
1 small yellow onions
1 tsp. Kosher salt, separate uses
½ tsp. black pepper
6 oz. Cabot Sharp Light Cheddar
8 large eggs
2 cups Strauss whole milk
1 can (4 oz.) Ortega Diced Green Chilies
¼ cup green bell pepper
¼ cup red bell pepper
Note: You can assemble this dish right before you stick it in the oven, but it is better if you make it the evening before and let the egg/milk mixture completely soak into the bread.
1. Cut the bread into ¾ inch cubes and spread them onto a large baking tray.
2.Pam a 9 x 13 inch pan and spread the bread cubes out onto a single layer.
3. Put the tray on the middle rack and broil for 10 to 15 minutes.
Tip: Stir the bread cubes half way through and keep a close eye on them at the end of broiling. The idea is to toast them, not burn them.
4. In a sauté pan over a medium high heat, fry the chicken sausages.
5. Cool slightly and cut them into half inch pieces. Scatter them evenly over the bread cubes.
6. Without cleaning the pan, add the butter and when it stops foaming, sauté the onions with half a teaspoon of salt until they are well caramelized.
7. Scatter the onions evenly over the chicken sausage.
8. Crack fresh pepper over the onions.
9. Grate the cheese and scatter it evenly over the ingredients in the pan.
10. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and chilies.
11. Pour the egg/milk mixture evenly over the ingredients in the pan.
12. Finely dice the peppers and scatter them over the top.
13. Pre-heat the oven to 350º F.
14. Let the pan rest for at least half an hour before baking.
Tip: The rest is to give the egg/milk mixture time to soak into the bread. You can make the dish up to this point the night before and refrigerate, tightly covered. In the morning you just pop it in the oven and have a cup of coffee, in 40 minutes you have a spectacular breakfast.
15. Bake the strada on the middle rack for 30 minutes and then switch the burner to broil and increase the temperature.
16. Broil the strada until the top is spotty brown and the cheese is bubbly.
Tip: Depending on your oven you may need to rotate your pan half way through the broiling. Keep a close eye on your dish toward the end, so that you do not burn the top.