Monte Cristo Strata

Christmas is literally just hours away now!  It’s wicked cold here in TN.  We woke up to a nippy 11° this morning with a wind chill of -2°.  That’s just insane for us here in the South!  But as the old saying goes, if you don’t like the weather here, wait a minute…….we’re supposed to be back up to nearly 60° for Christmas day!  Again……INSANE!  Not that the weather has ANYTHING to do with today’s recipe!  I just wanted to complain about the cold a minute!  Thanks for indulging me.

So I thought I’d share another good breakfast/brunch idea with you this morning.  I really enjoy breakfast casseroles.  This casserole is a “strata.”  It’s similar to a quiche in that it has lots of eggs and is baked.  And for those who aren’t that big a fan of eggs ***raising hand*** this is a good alternative to plain old scrambled eggs.  There’s so much other action that the eggs are mostly camouflaged.  Which to me, is a good thing!  I’m not a huge fan of eggs for the most part.

Let’s build this thing, shall we?  It’s not going to build and cook itself! 

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

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Bread of choice, sliced ham, eggs, milk, Dijon mustard, minced garlic and sliced Swiss cheese.  Other ingredients could include:  onions, red and/or green bell peppers, roasted red peppers, smoked turkey and pepper jack cheese.  You could really turn this into anything you wanted it to be by changing up the ingredients.

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Break 4-6 eggs in a bowl.  If you’re making a large pan (9″x13″, I would  recommend you use 6 eggs.  If you’re using a small baking dish, 4 will be fine.)

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Add a Tablespoon of minced garlic to the eggs.  If you really like garlic, add more.  If you’re a vampire and garlic offends you, just leave it out.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  I never add salt because the ham and cheese make it plenty salty for me.  But if you don’t suffer from hypertension like me, by all means, add some salt.  And as y’all know, I prefer fresh cracked pepper, so that’s what I’ll add.  You could also add some minced dried onion, crushed red pepper, smoky paprika, or any other spice or herb that cranks your tractor. 

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Now add a healthy squirt of Dijon mustard.  Y’all forgive me for not turning the bottle of mustard around in the photo so it could be read.  I’m still trying to get the hang of this food photography thing!  What’s a healthy squirt, you ask?  Um, well, I don’t know.  I like it where I can actually TASTE the mustard.  So if I had to venture a guess, I’d say at least 1/4 cup.  But that is strictly a guesstimate on my part.

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There’s my “healthy” squirt of mustard and my very healthy dose of freshly cracked pepper.  Now here’s a little secret…..when y’all weren’t looking (translation:  when I decided to dump it in and forgot to take pictures) I added some crushed red pepper flakes and dried minced onion.  I just thought the pepper looked awfully lonely and needed some of its friends from the spice cabinet. 

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Add a cup of milk……or heavy whipping cream if you’re not fat like me or half and half or evaporated milk.  Any of those will work nicely. 

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Before you lay the bread in the bottom of the dish, don’t foget to spray it with non-stick cooking spray.  If you don’t, you’ll still be scrubbing your baking dish at Valentine’s day.  Once you’ve given it a good spray, lay the bread in a single layer in the bottom of the dish.

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Add a layer of sliced ham on top of the bread.  Really layer it on!  It’s Christmas!  No need to be stingy!  You can do Weight Watchers with me in a couple weeks!  For now, put the pig in the pan!  It’s all good!

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Top the ham layer with Swiss cheese.  Again, be generous.  If you prefer another cheese to Swiss, it won’t hurt my feelings or the ham’s if you add it instead of Swiss!  A nice sharp cheddar would be equally good. 

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Keep repeating layers until you get to the top of your dish.  End with a layer of bread.

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Whisk the egg/milk/spice mixture well and then pour over the bread.  Make sure the top layer gets completely saturated.  You don’t want any dry places.  It makes it hard and crunchy.

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It’s ready for the oven now!  Cover the dish with foil.  Put in a pre-heated 350° oven.  Bake for 25-30 minutes covered.  Take the foil off and bake an additional 25-30 minutes uncovered to brown up the top.  The key is making sure it’s “set.”  If you see any loose egg, bake it another few minutes.  You don’t want to serve the family raw eggs for Christmas breakfast. 

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Top with remaining cheese and put it back in the oven just long enough to melt the cheese.

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And in about 2 minutes, this is what you’ll have!  Ooey gooey cheesey goodness in a dish!  ***eyes rolling back in the head*** 

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Just look at all that melty cheese. 

Monte Cristo Strata

*  Sliced bread

*  4-6 eggs, beaten

*  1 cup milk

*  1 Tbsp. minced garlic

*  salt and pepper to taste

*  Dijon mustard, to taste

*  16 0z. pkg. sliced deli ham

*  2 pkg. sliced Swiss cheese

Mix eggs, milk, mustard and spices together.  Layer bread, ham and cheese in baking dish.  Pour eggs over the top.  Cover dish with foil.  Bake in a pre-heated 350° oven for 25-30 minutes.  Take foil off and bake an additional 25-30 minutes or until eggs are completely set.  Top with remaining cheese and return to oven about 2 minutes or until cheese melts.  Serve hot.

I’d like thank my friend Jenny in Colorado for the original recipe for this.  I’ve tweaked and tinkered with it over the years.  But the original recipe belongs to Jenny. 

This dish would be a fabulous one-hit wonder for Christmas morning.  Or it would be great with a pile of fruit beside it or even some of yesterday’s Sausage Hashbrown Casserole.  However you serve it, I hope you and your family enjoy it!

Merry Christmas!

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4 Responses

  1. BTW, THIS WAS MADE WHILE I WAS AT WORK, LADIES, & AMY CALLED ME & SAID THEY HAD JUST ABOUT EATEN IT ALL!! JUST SAYIN’ . . .

  2. Amy, my kids loved this!!!!!!! I had no leftovers and around my house that is a feat! Thanks for the recipe!

  3. AWESOME Delaina! Thanks for letting me know! I’m so glad your family enjoyed it!

  4. It looks fabulicious! I am sooooo trying this next weekend!

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