Today I made the Asiago Strata that we learned how to make in the Panera Bread workshop. While that strata was amazing, gooey and cheesy, just the way I like it, I wanted to kick it up a notch and make it a bit more savory. So I added 2 tsp. thyme and chopped up some (about 4 whole) sun-dried tomatoes into tiny dices.
When using a solid ingredient such as the sun dried tomatoes, or fresh garlic, or anything you choose to use, it is best to add them to each layer of the strata with the cheese so there is even distribution throughout the entire thing. Otherwise, they will just on top of the bread and not soak through. You want to taste all the ingredients in every layer.
Also, another trick is to hold off on the last layer of bread, reserving about ½ cup of the egg mixture to soak the bread in before you assemble this final layer. Pour, or ladle the remaining egg mixture over all the other layers then use the bread you soaked as the final topping.
I like to then place the entire thing into the fridge for at least a half hour. The longer it soaks the better, so even overnight is great. (A breakfast version could include sugar, maple syrup and grand mariner- much like my Lazy Sunday French Toast recipe!)
Here is the photo sequence to help you make this delightful version!
First, I grated all the cheese and sliced the bread. Then I chopped the sun-dried tomatoes.
Then I mixed the milk, the cream and the eggs. I just used one measuring cup so as not to dirty too many dishes! It’s best to whisk your eggs on their own a bit before adding them to the cream mixture.
To the egg & milk mixture, add the salt, pepper and thyme.
Layer the sliced bread in an 8″ baking pan. Cover with a layer of cheese and tomatoes.
Add another layer of bread and repeat until you reach the top.
Start with bread, end with bread. Ladle the egg mixture over the layers and add the final layer of soaked bread.
Bake in a preheated oven at 325 for 40-45 minutes until a rich golden brown.
Slide a spatula around the edge of the pan to help release it, and invert onto a large plate. (Kind of looks like very large grilled cheese sandwich! Just much better!)
Slice and eat! I am not sure which part I like better, the thick and crusty outside or the light yet very rich, gooey center. Maybe I just love the whole thing!