make-ahead anything goes strata

Make-Ahead Anything Goes Strata
Serves a crowd

about 8 cups (330 grams) day-old good quality French bread, cut into one-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups (355 ml) milk
4 eggs
2 cups (150 grams) shredded cheese, such as cheddar
half a medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
about 1/2 cup cooked ham, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
about 1/2 cup cooked bacon, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
finely chopped parsley, optional

Generously butter a medium oven-safe baking dish (mine was 9×7) and set aside.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Add the sliced onions, cover, and cook for about 10-15 minutes. Uncover, turn up the heat to medium high, and add the salt and sugar (this helps the onions to caramelize) then cook for another 10-15 minutes, stirring often, until the onions have caramelized and turned a deep, golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside until ready to assemble the strata.

Prepare the ingredients for the filling and have them at the ready. In a large bowl whisk together the milk, eggs, chopped parsley, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Working in several batches, dunk the cubed bread into the egg mixture so that each cube is just coated.

Spread an even layer of the coated bread into the bottom of the buttered dish and evenly sprinkle the caramelized onions, ham, bacon and cheese over the top. Continue layering until all the bread and filling ingredients have been used – ending with cheese. Pour any extra egg mixture over the top of the strata. Tightly wrap with several layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least eight hours, or overnight.

The next morning when you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350. Unwrap the strata, sprinkle with an additional handful of shredded cheese and bake for 45-55 minutes or until the top is brown and the cheese is bubbling. Let cool for several minutes and serve.