So, after seeing this past month's Daring Bakers' Challenge, have you tried making your own challah yet? I hope so!
The only "problem" (and I use term loosely...) is what to do with the leftovers.
There are tons and tons of possibilities... slice it for sandwiches. Make French toast. Make bread pudding. Make croutons or bread-crumbs.
I admit - for me, leftover bread (especially challah!) usually turns into breakfast (French toast) or dessert (bread pudding).
But, as a part of this month's challenge, I wanted to try something new.
Then, perusing a cookbook that I'd borrowed from the library, I saw the answer - strata.
What is a strata?
It's a savory bread pudding.
Same bready, eggy goodness that you're used to for dessert, but instead of sugar and cinnamon and desserty/breakfasty goodness, go for savory, dinnery fillings and spices.
I used the cookbook's "basic" recipe and used a favorite standby for flavor - Italian sausage, peppers and onions.
But it all started with the challah. I used the big, huge round one that you saw on my last post and cut it into cubes.
It's a good think I cut some extra, because some people who shall remain nameless had a hard time keeping their hands out of the pan...
Once the bread was cut and set aside, it was time to work on the filling. I diced up one sweet onion and several of these adorable, multicolored mini bell peppers.
I would up using eight of those peppers, and strove to keep a nice rainbow variety of colors.
I started by sauteeing the peppers and onions in a pan, then, after removing the veggies, I browned up about a pound of mild Italian sausage (casings removed) until it was just done (no more pink).
Add the veggies back in to finish everything up...
...and I was ready to build.
Half of the bread cubes into a 9" x 13" pan, topped with half of the sausage and veggie mix, then sprinkled with some diced up provolone cheese. Then these layers were repeated.
Once the base was prepared, it was time to hold it all together. Five eggs, some milk and a sprinkling of spices were whisked together...
...and poured on top.
About 45 minutes later, the house smelled amazing, and, when I opened the oven, I was greeted with this:
Okay, I admit, the crust pieces looked dark, which had me concerned, but those aside, it looked bright and colorful and fresh and delicious, and even ooey and gooey from the cheese.
And it tasted even better than it looked.
Oh no, bread puddings will no longer be saved for dessert.
I can't wait to try other ingredients, flavor combinations and fillings - the strata is definitely here to stay!
Italian Sausage, Pepper and Onion Strata
(inspired by a recipe in Ready when you are by Martha Rose Shulman)
1/2 pound bread, slightly stle if possible, cut into cubes (about 5-6 cups of bread cubes, enough to fill a 9" x 13" baking dish without overflowing it)
1 pound Italian sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 mini bell peppers, assorted colors (or 1-2 large bell peppers - whatever you have available!)
1 sweet (Vidalia) onion
1/4 pound provolone cheese, grated or cut into small pieces (mine was pre-sliced, so I just cut it into small squares)
5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (I used 1% because it was what we had)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Dice the onion and peppers and remove the casings from the Italian sausage.
In a large frying pan, sautee the onion and peppers in the olive oil (I always sprinkle my veggies with a pinch of salt to help them along as they sautee...). Set the vegetables aside. In the same pan, brown the sausage, crumbling it as it cooks, until it is cooked through (no more pink). Add the vegetables back into the pan, toss everything together, and then remove the pan from the heat.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9" x 13" baking pan.
Spread half of the bread cube in the prepared baking pan, then top with half of the sausage, pepper and onion mixture. Sprinkle with half of the cheese.
Repeat your layers - bread cubes, sausage and veggies, then top with remaining cheese.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and spices. Slowly and carefully, pour the egg mixture over the prepared casserole, trying to coat all of the bread (and meat and veggies...) evenly.
Bake for 40 - 50 minutes, until puffed and browned.
Can be served right away (hot) or warm, after waiting a bit.