Brunch Ham or Smoked Salmon & Asparagus Strata

This is a most versatile and delicious breakfast, brunch, or lunch dish!  Make it with Ham & Cheddar, or, if you're not a fan of ham, make it with Smoked Salmon & a Swiss-style cheese.  Make it the night before and bake before your guests arrive for easy entertaining.  You'll impress with this dish, and it couldn't be easier!

1 1/2 Pounds Asparagus, cut into 2" pieces

3 Tablespoons Butter, softened

16 Ounces Sliced Bread,(a firm sourdough or sturdy white loaf) crusts removed

3/4 Cup Shredded Cheddar (for ham strata) OR Swiss-style Cheese (Emmenthal, Gruyere, Grand Cru) for Salmon strata, divided

2 Cups Fully Cooked Cubed Ham, OR 8 ounces sliced Smoked Salmon                           

6 large Eggs

3 Cups Whole Milk

2 Tablespoons minced green onions

1 teaspoon finely minced fresh dill (omit if using ham!)

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

Cook asparagus until just tender.  Drain.

Lightly butter bread slices.  Place half of slices in a greased 13X9-inch baking dish.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese.  Layer with asparagus and ham.  Cover with remaining bread, buttered side up.  In a blender, combine the eggs, milk, salt and mustard.  Add the onion and dill (if using) and pulse to combine; pour over bread.  Press gently to help bread soak up milk.  Allow to sit at least 10 minutes.  (Strata can be refrigerated at this point and baked up to 8 hours later.)

Bakes, uncovered at 325-degrees for 50 minutes.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.  Return to the oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Serve immediately.  Refrigerate leftovers.  Keeps about 3 days in the refrigerator.

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