Goat Cheese Strata
with Emmental, Red Wine, Peppers, & Onions
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This post is brought to you in collaboration with BC Egg, who have financially compensated me to produce this recipe. All opinions are my own.
The savoury egg-and-cheese casseroles known as stratas are normally associated with breakfast and brunch, but this recipe takes a deliciously dinner-centric turn thanks to the addition of goat cheese, red wine, onions, and peppers. It’s a healthy, crowd-pleasing meal that’s also easy to put together the day-of, or a day in advance. You can also bake it and freeze it to have on hand for an easy meal!
You know what this site needs? More casseroles. I’m just old enough to have grown up with a less-than-glamorous image of casseroles, and I think that’s biased me a bit over the years. They always had a sort of simple, family-friendly appeal (which I certainly appreciate more now that I’ve got three kids), but they seemed somewhat co-opted by dump-and-go world of processed meal components. If I see the words ‘casserole’ and ‘cream-of-X-soup’ my eyes tend to glaze over like baked hams. But I’ve been doing myself (and you fine readers) a disservice by not exploring more delicious baked dinners. When they’re made from scratch with good ingredients, they’re almost always a treat – and a weeknight friendly treat to boot.
I didn’t really discover stratas until a few years ago – perhaps due to my previous casserole aversion. For the uninitiated, a strata (which means ‘layer’ in Latin) is a baked cheese, egg, and bread casserole that optionally includes meats, vegetables, and other ingredients. The first written record of a strata recipe shows up in a 1902 book, Handbook of Household Science by Juniata L. Shepperd. While it does feature layered bread and cheese, it differs from modern strata recipes through the use of a white sauce (béchamel) in place of the eggs. The first recipe I can find that mentions an egg strata is in a 1944 cookbook,* but the consensus seems to be that these casseroles grew in prominence and popularity in the 1980’s. Regardless, the somewhat quiche-like dish has taken a well-deserved spot at the breakfast/brunch table, where the combination of eggs, bread, and cheese is certainly not out of place. But what about dinner? I’m a big fan of blurring the lines between meals (as evidenced by my miniseries on savoury pancakes), and I think stratas have a ton going for them when it comes to dinner. The ingredients are all easy to use and delightfully savoury, they’re easy to make, easy to make in advance (a huge weeknight plus), and they can be modified with all kinds of add-ins and variations. Honestly you could (and should) create all kinds of great strata recipes for dinner using all kinds of ingredients, but I was immediately drawn to the idea of using red wine, peppers, and onions. The veggies on their own are great of course, but the wine adds wonderful depth of flavour and a distinctive savoury punch – something that can otherwise be lacking from a meat-free egg-based recipe.
I hope I’ve sold you on stratas-for-dinner, but there’s no need to take my word on all this. They’re wonderfully easy to make, and even easier to adapt to all kinds of tastes. I’d love to hear your variations and twists on this theme too, so feel free to leave a comment or question below. Cheers!
*The Good Housekeeping Cook Book by Katharine Rolston Fisher (1944, Good Housekeeping Institute, New York, N.Y.)
Stratas are easy – in fact, that’s a big part of their appeal! The notes below are included to give you a couple of options for variations, and to help you figure out how best to bake and/or reheat the dish, should you desire to prep or make this in advance.
The vegetables, herbs, and red wine could work with a pretty wide variety of cheeses, so feel free to try different ideas out. I do think that the goat cheese is the most important cheese in this recipe and (assuming you like goat cheese), I’d be inclined to leave that one alone. There’s a fair bit more leeway with the Emmental cheese however. Emmental is a firm Swiss cheese, originally from (surprise) Emmental, Switzerland. It’s very popular and fairly widely available, and is frequently imitated outside of Switzerland. Emmental-style cheeses are made in other parts of Europe, and North American ‘Swiss’ style cheeses are broadly similar. All of these will work nicely in place of true Emmental. Other nutty, firm aged cheeses would also work nicely. Gruyere, Jarlsberg, Maasdam, or aged (not young) Fontina are all excellent examples that would be at home in this dish. If you’re looking for a lighter recipe with a lower fat content, you could swap in mozzarella (which has nearly half the fat of Emmental). Mozzarella tastes quite different from Emmental and other Swiss-style cheeses, but it is a nice, mild, melty cheese to use in a strata.
Lastly, I will note that this recipe is actually less cheesy than many other strata recipes. Now, I love me some cheese, but I really didn’t want to go overboard in this recipe, as there are a lot of flavours going on here. I found it just cheesy enough, but if you’re used to a particularly gooey strata, you might consider adding more of one or both cheese types.
Baking & Broiling Notes
Many strata recipes recommend baking covered (i.e. with tinfoil), then finishing uncovered. I found that unnecessary, at least for this particular recipe. The actual baking time will vary a little depending on your oven, so I do recommend that you keep an eye on it and test it by giving the pan a bit o a shake. If it wobbles a lot in the center, it’s not done. You can also gently pierce the center with a small knife, pressing some of the strata to one side to see how liquidy the mixture is.
If you’re planning to prep your strata the night before you’ll want to take it out of the fridge to let it get to room temperature before baking. If you forget, you can extend your baking time to compensate, but you’ll have to make sure to keep an extra close eye on it. See below for more make-ahead notes.
Broiling the nearly-finished strata to crisp up the top is technically optional, but I would recommend it. It adds depth of flavour (especially if you’ve topped the strata off with extra cheese, which will melt and brown very nicely), and gives the whole dish a more finished sort of look. Do be sure to keep an eyes on the strata as it sits though, as it will brown very quickly and can burn quite easily if you’re not careful. I like a little bit of char on the edges of my veggies so I tend to let it sit under the broiler a little bit longer than some.
Stratas can be put together ahead the day before and baked on the day-of, making them particularly nice when you’re cooking for company or working on a busy weekday. That being said, you do need to add an extra step to the process in order to keep the bread from becoming too soggy in the eggs. Simply scatter the cut bread pieces on a baking tray and bake in a low oven (about 250°F/120°C) for 20 minutes, or until the bread cubes are dry and a little browned. Once this is done, you can continue with the remaining steps as written in the recipe card below.
I mentioned this above in the baking notes, but it bears repeating here: try to let your strata get to room temperature before baking it. A cold strata will cook more slowly and unevenly, requiring more attention in the oven.
Once baked and cooled, your strata can be refrigerated for a 2-3 days or frozen for 3+ months. Refrigerated or frozen strata is best warmed up in a low-temperature oven. A whole frozen cooked strata is actually a very handy meal to have ready to go in the freezer, and requires pretty minimal prep – about 1 hour in a 200°F (95°C) oven should do the trick, but you can up the temperature a bit if you’re in a hurry. You can microwave individual portions too, but make sure to do so carefully and in small time increments, or you might find that the eggy portion has a tendency to explode and make a disaster out of your microwave.
Herbs & other Toppings
Here’s a dirty secret about food photography and plating that you’ve probably suspected before – the green stuff on top of a dish is often there just because it looks right. I try to use greenery to punch up my photos only if I think it also punches up the recipe, and that’s certainly the case here. I used fresh oregano to top this strata off for two reasons: 1) I love the way its subtle-but-distinctive flavour plays against the wine, onions, and goat cheese, and 2) it’s completely taken over my yard and I need to eat more of it. If you’ve got fresh oregano, absolutely go with it – but don’t go crazy trying to find it either. Flat-leaf parsley is nice too. Scallion greens are an easy alternative, and very nice if you want to double-down on the onion. I love cilantro, but I’d personally skip it on this recipe, as I think it competes with the other flavours.
There is one other element that I haven’t used here but that would make an excellent addition – pine nuts! Pine nuts are phenomenal with goat cheese and red wine, and including them gives this strata recipe an extra shot o’ class for those fancy dinner parties. If you do decide to add the pine nuts, I would personally recommend toasting them carefully in a dry frying pan for a minute or so before sprinkling them over the finished dish. You could try adding them before the broiling step, but you’ll want to be EXTRA-attentive, as pine nuts can burn VERY quickly.
Note: Nutritional Information is given for a single serving (1/8th portion of the total recipe).
No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
Note: the recipe is not gluten-free as-is, but can be made that way simply by swapping out the bread for a gluten-free type.
Goat Cheese Strata with Peppers & Onions
- 4 cups crusty whole wheat bread (325 g [~3/4 lb]) cut into cubes
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 red bell peppers chopped
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 6 extra large eggs or 7 large eggs
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- pinch thyme
- 3.5 oz goat cheese
- 3.5 oz emmental cheese shredded (see note)
- fresh oregano to garnish (optional)
- Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the peppers, onions, and a pinch of salt, and saute for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red wine and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Butter an 8x8 baking tray, then layer it with the bread cubes.(See the notes below if you want to prepare this the night before)
- Scatter shredded and crumbled cheeses over the bread, reserving a bit to sprinkle on top at the end. I like to toss the bread cubes a bit to mix the cheese in a little more.
- Scatter the cooked peppers and onions over the bread and cheese.
- Combine eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and thyme. Whisk together thoroughly, then pour over the bread/cheese/veggies. If necessary, gently press the bread down to make sure that it sinks in to the liquid. Let stand for 30 minutes on the counter.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C), bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the egg is just set and no longer jiggly in the center. Finish the strata under the broiler to brown and crisp up the surface (2-3 minutes, but keep an eye on it).