Strata – basically a savory bread pudding–is too often soggy and laden with excessive custard and ingredients, rendering a simple casserole an overindulgence in both preparation and consumption. We felt that the perfect strata for breakfast or brunch should contain complementary fillings and flavorings, and just enough richness to satisfy.
The solution was to start with the right bread–a thin-crusted supermarket loaf of French or Italian bread beat out sturdier artisan loaves. These softer breads (sold in the bakery department at most supermarkets) soaked up the custard evenly, and were more pleasant to eat when served. With the added step of staling or toasting the bread, we drove off more moisture, and ensured the bread stayed intact. (Note that if your bread is already stale, you can skip this toasting step.)
For the savory spinach and shallot filling, we started by squeezing thawed, frozen spinach to remove much of its liquid, then sautéed the vegetables to continue driving off moisture and building deeper flavor. The addition of white wine, reduced down in a skillet to concentrate its jammy flavor and rid it of any boozy bite, added a welcome brightness to an otherwise heavy dish.
After layering in the components and weighing the dish down to compact the disparate ingredients into a more cohesive dish, the strata needed to be refrigerated for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. The next day, after a short 20-minute stint on the counter, all the work left to do was bake the strata until the top was lightly golden brown.