Asparagus Ham & Cheese Strata

Whenever I am having family/friends over for brunch, I like to prepare a dish that can be put together, baked in the oven and makes several servings. Quiche, frittata and strata are good choices.

Strata in Italian means layers and is typically made with bread, eggs, milk and/or cream, cheese and vegetables. The addition of meat, such as, ham, bacon, chicken or sausage is also an option. The beauty of strata is that it can be made in advance, reheats perfectly in the oven and everyone loves it!

  • 1 loaf rustic Italian or French bread (I used sourdough), cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes, about 8 cups total of bread cubes
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 1 1/4 cups cream
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound asparagus spears, woody ends removed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (for asparagus)
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter (for buttering the dish)
  • 6 ounces ham, cut into 1/4-inch cubes, about 2 cups
  • 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated, about 1 cup, packed
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

    Spread the cubed bread over a parchment-lined sheet pan in a single layer. Place in oven and bake until lightly toasted, about 7 to 8 minutes. Remove and set aside. Lower the oven temperature to 375°F.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, thyme, salt and pepper. Set aside.

  3. When the bread cubes have cooled, transfer to another dish and place the asparagus in a single layer on the parchment-lined pan. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, using your hands to gently rub on each asparagus spear, sprinkle with salt. Roast 8 minutes. Remove from oven, Lower the temperature to 350 degrees. Cut spears into 3/4-inch pieces.
  4. To layer the casserole: Spread butter over the inside of an 8 x 11 x 2 1/4-inch ovenproof baking dish (I use Pyrex if I’m making it the day before so it can go from frig to oven). Spread half of the bread cubes over the bottom of the casserole dish.
  5. Scatter half of the ham cubes (1-cup) over the bread, then half of the asparagus over the ham. Sprinkle half of the cheese (1/2-cup) over the casserole.
  6. Evenly pour half of the milk and egg mixture (2-cups) over the top.
  7. Repeat the process with another layer of the remaining bread cubes, ham and asparagus. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Evenly pour the milk and egg mixture over the entire thing. Using your hands, gently press down on the mixture to help the bread soak up more of the milk mixture. (At this point, if making in advance, cover and refrigerate. When ready to bake, remove from frig, 30-60 minutes before baking). Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  8. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil, Bake for 40 minutes.
  9. Remove foil, bake an additional 20 minutes, until golden brown and egg mixture is set (test by inserting a butter knife into the center).
  10. Cut into desired pieces, serve individually or place on a platter. This dish is perfect for a brunch buffet, lunch or dinner.
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