A couple weeks ago a recipe in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye (this is my all-time favorite publication, and, yes, they do occasionally have recipes!).
They called it Smoky Strata, and it's a fairly simple recipe combining bread, eggs, tomatoes, onions, milk, ricotta and Parmesan. I decided to adapt it to be gluten free, of course...and also added chicken sausage for extra protein and flavor. I also omitted harissa, so my version isn't really "smoky" or spicy.
It's a bit like a lasagna but with bread instead of lasagna noodles...and a lot more eggs than a lasagna would have (however, it's not an eggy breakfast dish, but rather a hearty lunch or dinner).
Most of these ingredients you will probably have on hand already, and the others are easy to find. Here is my adaptation of this rustic, tasty meal that is sure to please everyone...
3 Tbsp butter
1 large Vidalia (sweet) onion, finely chopped
2 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
2 large chicken sausages (or 6 smaller link style sausages), diced or crumbled. You can also use pork sausage if you prefer.
1/3 cup plus 1 1/2 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh oregano (I only had dried, and I only used about 1 Tbsp because I didn't want the oregano to be too overpowering)
1/8 tsp sugar (optional)
1 gluten free baguette, cut into cubes (I used 1 1/2 Against the Grain baguettes, which are smaller than average baguettes)
2 cups ricotta cheese (I used part-skim)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 3/4 cups whole milk (I used 2%)
9 large eggs
**The recipe also called for 2 1/2 Tbsp harissa, a spicy and aromatic chili paste. However, I didn't have any in my spice cabinet and wanted to make a less-spicy version of the strata, so I skipped this ingredient.
1.) Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring until soft, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, and paprika. Cook, stirring, for one minute. Off heat, stir in diced tomatoes, sausage, oregano, and 1/2 tsp salt. Taste and add sugar, if desired.
2. Arrange one-third of bread in a 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Scatter one-third of tomato-onion-sausage mixture over the bread, followed by one-third of the ricotta, using a spatula to to smear it around evenly. Sprinkle one-third of the Parmesan cheese on top. Repeat these steps twice more, reserving the final third of the Parmesan.
3.) In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and remaining salt. Pour mixture evenly over the strata. Cover the strata with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator. Let bread "soak" for at least 8 hours (I only let it "soak" for about 4.5 hours due to time constraints.)
4.) Take strata out of refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
5.) Sprinkle strata with a bit of extra oregano, if desired, and the reserved Parmesan cheese. When oven is preheated, put strata on the center rack in the oven and cook for about 55 minutes until cooked through and golden on top. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
This is one of those recipes -- much like lasagna -- that's even better the next day for leftovers, since the flavors have had more of a chance to meld, and it's a bit less messy to cut and serve.
Let me know what you think!