This dish can be made with crumbled bacon or shrimp, sauteed mushrooms or leeks, and just about any kind of bread, including raisin or a mixture of white and whole wheat or rye. Prepare it a night ahead. To feed a crowd, double this recipe and prepare it in a large baking dish.
14 slices bread, crusts removed
1 cup diced cooked ham
2 cups shredded Swiss or cheddar cheese
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or parsley
3 1/2 cups milk
salt and pepper, to taste
Cut the bread into cubes. Generously grease a 13x9-inch baking dish. Make a layer with half the bread cubes, arranging them so they cover the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle the ham, cheese, shallots, and basil (or parsley) over the bread. Cover with the remaining bread cubes. Beat the eggs and milk together in a large bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Slowly pour the mixture over the top bread layer, saturating it evenly.
Cover and refrigerate overnight; the bread will soak up the liquid as the mixture stands.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Uncover the strata and bake for 1 hour, or until puffed and lightly browned.
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