strata with oven-dried tomatoes

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A strata is infinitely adaptable based on your tastes, the season or what happens to in your pantry. This will easily sit overnight making this dish ideal for feeding houseguests, when you’d rather visit than cook. For many years my mother had suggested a strata for entertaining and it never seemed interesting, but, like many things in life, after finally making it I was sorry for not listening to her sooner.

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1 loaf of country bread, cut into 1” inch cubes
About 1 cup oven-dried tomatoes
2 ½ cups milk
7 eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
8 ounces of cheddar, coarsely grated
Butter for the pan

Generously butter a 9” x 13” baking dish. Crack the eggs into a large bowl and beat slightly to break up the yolks. Whisk in the milk, salt and pepper. Place half of the bread in the prepared pan followed by half of the tomatoes and cheese. Make a second layer with bread and tomatoes. Reserve the remaining cheese. Pour the egg and milk mixture over the bread mixture in the pan. Cover the pan with tinfoil and press down on the bread to ensure all of the bread will absorb the egg mixture. Place in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes and up to overnight.

When ready to bake, reheat oven to 350 degrees F. Take the pan out of the refrigerator, remove the foil and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the top is starting to brown. Remove from the oven and let sit on the counter for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Variation: Greens and Chicken Sausage Strata
Over medium heat, sauté 8 ounces of chicken sausage until no longer pink, breaking up the meat with a spoon. In place of the tomatoes add 1 cup cooked greens such as kale, chard or spinach and the cooked sausage. Substitute a good shredded parmesan for half of the cheddar.

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