It doesnt take much, Ive discovered, to make a memorable breakfast casserole. But it does require a small investment in a few quality ingredients like good bread and excellent cheese and perhaps a willingness to overlook an obscene amount of eggs and cream.
Ive experimented over the years with cheddar, Gouda, Parmesan and gruyere, but I must say that brie has yielded the best recipe yet. A generous handful is sprinkled throughout this recipe, and when melted, it creates a rich and gooey sauce for sautéed mushrooms and custard-soaked bread.
I am forever enamored and obsessed with the idea of breakfast casseroles. Their very existence represents happy times, bustling kitchens and fond memories shared around the table. Of course, their ease of preparation and ability to be made in advance are what make them so popular for entertaining, but I am more interested in exploring their infinite flavor combinations in my quest for brunch nirvana.
While this is perfect for a crowd, I found it ideal for my family of two. We first enjoyed it warm from the oven, a hearty way to start our morning. We nibbled on it in the afternoon. We were headed to the mountains the following day, so I warmed the leftovers before we hit the road and packed them to enjoy in the car. It was a heck of a lot better than fast food.
Call it what you will breakfast casserole, strata or savory bread pudding. This perfect pairing will be a family favorite from here on out.
Nealey Dozier is a writer for TheKitchn.com, a website for
Brie and Mushroom Strata
Butter to prepare dish
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
1 to 2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 pound mixed mushrooms, such as bella, cremini or shitake, sliced
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
9 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound (16 ounces) cubed French bread, day-old or toasted (see note)
1 (8-ounce) round of brie, rind removed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
GENEROUSLY butter an 11-by-7-inch (or 1 1/2-quart) baking dish and set aside.
HEAT the olive oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 30 seconds or so. Add the mushrooms, the leaves from the thyme sprigs, and a pinch of salt. Cook until mushrooms are golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Pour in the wine and increase heat to high. Cook until all the liquid cooks out.
WHISK together the eggs, milk, cream, mustard, salt and a pinch of black pepper in a large mixing bowl. Arrange half of the bread cubes in the bottom of the prepared baking dish, followed by half the mushrooms and half the cubed brie. Pour half of the egg mixture over the top. Top with the remaining bread, mushrooms and brie. Pour the remaining egg mixture evenly over the bread and push down gently to make sure that every piece gets saturated. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.
PREHEAT the oven to 350 degrees. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour. Remove foil, add grated Parmesan and continue baking, uncovered, until puffed and golden, 15 to 25 minutes. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
TO FREEZE: Wrap the assembled but unbaked casserole tightly with plastic wrap, followed by a layer of aluminum foil. Label with date and cooking instructions, and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before cooking; bake according to instructions.
NOTE: If not using stale bread, spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once, until dry and slightly toasted.
Yield: 8 servings (recipe can be halved).