I’m not the kind of person who hosts brunch. Do real people actually host brunch? I’m almost convinced hosting brunch is an invention of social media to make us all feel bad that we’re not having an intimate group of friends over for bloody marys (which I don’t drink) and fancy bagels with lox and capers (which I don’t like). Even if I didn’t have the cutest 8 month old nugget hindering my brunch dreams with his 6 am wake-up call, I need food way before the brunch hour finally moseys in. Hosting breakfast… now that I could get behind!
If I ever did get to a point in my life where I could, or even wanted to, host brunch, this strata would be the highlight of the menu. Strata is essentially a breakfast casserole or a savory bread pudding, but strata sounds about a million times fancier than casserole. I first had strata at a bakery I worked at in college, and, much like almost everything I ate from that place, it was love at first bite. Their strata was made from day-old ham and cheese croissants (!), cream, whole milk, and was about 3 inches tall. It was glorious! This strata is that strata’s lighter yet no less delicious cousin.
Instead of croissants, this strata starts with English muffins. They have the perfect sponge-y texture to soak up the eggs, which is a really good thing. Next I used sauteed mushrooms and spinach, which offer the perfect balance of savoriness and health. I also like a good full teaspoon of dry mustard in my strata, which I think comes from a well-loved family recipe. And finally, my favorite part about this strata? The paper thin slices of provolone cheese and ham that are gently tucked into the crevices and crannies on top. Then, instead of getting a chunk of ham and cheese, you get the perfect little stripe of each in almost every bite. Oh, and you make this the night before so all you have to do Saturday morning is put this in the oven.This is fancy enough for “hosting brunch” but perfect for a normal weekend breakfast. Perfect!
English Muffin Ham and Cheese Strata
Fancy enough for brunch but easy enough for a busy weekend, this English Muffin Ham and Cheese Strata is on heavy rotation at our house!
- 8 oz sliced mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 oz frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry and chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 12 oz English muffins, sliced and cut into 1 inch cubes
- 8 eggs
- 2 cups milk (NOT fat-free)
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- Quite a few good grinds of black pepper
- 8 slices paper-thin deli ham
- 8 slices paper-thin provolone
Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the mushrooms and a good pinch of salt. Cook until the mushrooms are well-done and golden, about 10 minutes. Add the chopped spinach, the red pepper flakes, the garlic, and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
While the vegetables are cooking, whisk together the eggs, milk, dry mustard, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper together in a medium bowl.
Grease a 3 quart baking dish and layer in half of the English muffin cubes. Once the vegetables are cooked, layer these on top of the bread. Next, add the remaining half of the bread cubes and pour on the egg mixture. Tuck the slices of ham and provolone cheese into the crevices on top. Grate a little Parmesan cheese over the top of everything.
Cover the pan and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, take the strata out of the fridge then preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the strata uncovered for 50-60 minutes. To make sure it's done, nudge the bread cubes in the center apart with a knife until you can see the bottom of the pan. If you don't see any liquid, you're good to go!
Let the strata rest for 5 minutes then serve. Enjoy!