Stratas are meant to be put together in advance and refrigerated overnight or at least 4 to 6 hours before baking, which makes them ideal for a plan-ahead brunch or supper. Instead of adding a final layer of bread to the top, I prefer to use breadcrumbs, which are less dense. For bread, use sturdy day-old sandwich bread or an Italian bread, sliced about 1/4-inch thick.
2 teaspoons minced fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
12 (1-ounce) thin slices firm white sandwich bread (such as Pepperidge Farm)
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded fontina cheese, divided
2 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
3 large eggs
1 large egg white
1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (about 3 slices)
How to Make It
Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add asparagus, leeks, and water. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in parsley, tarragon, lemon rind, salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
Arrange half of bread slices in a single layer in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top bread slices with half of asparagus mixture, and sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat procedure with the remaining bread, asparagus mixture, and 1/2 cup cheese.
Combine 1/8 teaspoon pepper, milk, eggs, and egg white, and stir with a whisk until well-blended. Pour the milk mixture over strata. Cover strata, and chill for 8 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 400°.
Uncover strata; sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake at 400° for 40 minutes or until set.
Since other cooks complained that it was bland, I added 4 cloves of garlic to the leeks and sauteed them before steaming them with the asparagus. I used a whole-grain baguette, which I think is more flavorful than white bread. I used more lemon rind and fresh tarragon than the recipe called for, and I didn't have Fontina cheese, so I combined part-skim mozzarella, low-fat sharp cheddar, and Romano---and the flavors were great. I refrigerated it for just 4-5 hours before baking it, and it was firm, tasty, and a hearty vegetarian meal. I served it with cooked winter squash. Great way to use up some stale bread, but I rarely have asparagus and leeks in the garden at the same time. (Leeks are a fall crop here, and asparagus comes in the spring.)
I made this dish as a side for Easter dinner..BLAH. I made it as written (I rarely do) and it turned out very bland. My brother liked it after seasoning it at the table but nobody else at the table even finished their first portion. I think it could be improved with additional flavor, maybe garlic, some onion and more pepper? I don't know if I'll try it again though.
This is a very nice brunch dish with great flavors that I've served for a variety of special brunch gatherings including my mother's b-day & New Year's Day. It often takes longer than anticipated to bake. Sometimes there is too much moisture in the dish and some liquid needs to be drained from the dish before serving.
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