I love making stratas and French toast casseroles for breakfast or brunch. Not only are they delicious, but they are made the night before and baked in the morning, so you can serve something really impressive without having to get up at the crack of dawn. As someone who is definitely not a morning person, I find this idea very appealing.
My cousin Esther made this recipe for us when we visited in July using fresh Ontario tomatoes, homegrown basil and a lovely creamy brie. It was wonderful. In fact, Esther made a double recipe- two full pans – and seven of us nearly polished off both of them!
Esther garnished the dish with halves of tomato, but says you could use slices instead if you prefer. The amount of basil you use is really up to you, depending on how much you like the flavour. If you haven’t got any fresh basil, you could whisk a generous teaspoon of dried basil into the milk and egg mixture before you pour it over the bread and Brie.
Brie and Basil Strata
Makes one 13 x 9 inch pan
Serves 6 to 8
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon pepper
1 medium loaf of Italian or French bread, cubed
(enough to fill a 13 x 9 inch baking pan)
about 1 cup Brie, chopped into small pieces
a handful of fresh basil leaves (stems removed)
2 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
6 medium tomatoes (Roma variety if possible)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Remember to start this recipe the night before you want to serve it. Lightly butter a 13 x 9 inch baking dish.
Beat together the eggs, milk and pepper. Set aside.
In a large bowl, toss together the bread cubes, pieces of Brie and most of the basil. Arrange in the baking dish.
Pour the eggy mixture over the top. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC).
Halve or slice the tomatoes and arrange over top of the strata mixture. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and a bit of salt and pepper to taste.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the strata becomes browned and bubbly. Serve hot.
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