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USA WEEKEND columnist Pam Anderson
Original recipe yields 12 servings
I made 5 of these for a family brunch last Sunday. They turned out fantastic and were a definite crowd pleaser. I made 3 with just meats (one each of bacon, sausage, and ham), the other 2 were bacon and sausage with onion and peppers. My personal opinion is that the "kicked up" versions with the veggies were tastier. If you aren't a fan of veggies and want just plain meat, I'd recommend the sausage. It tasted a bit zestier than the bacon or ham. I made these the night before, refrigerated them and just popped them in the oven right from the fridge. They took 1 hour to cook and were beautiful, puffy and done all the way through. This is a new favorite!
I had never made strata before and I made three variations for a brunch shower. I thought they were really very tasty. I made one variation with sausage and grated apple, one with diced ham and red and yellow bell peppers and a Brie and Veggie one from Southern Cooking. The things I learned (and I am sure that many of you seasoned Strata makers know this) are that you must add extra cook time for extra ingredients. I added about 12 oz of ham and them about two whole bell peppers and this is the only one that did not set. Also, yes, you do need to let these set. I didn't really plan on that extra time when I put these in the oven so there as a lull in the shower while we waited for them to be ready. The other thing I did a little differently was cut the first layer of bread in half and lay it against the bottom of pan and the second layer I cubed so there was a little texture on the top. Rest of the menu was the "Restaurant Style Cheesy Hash browns", lettuce salad with apples and red onions, fresh fruit, and apple strudel and lemon blueberry mini muffins. I had many people ask for the recipes!
It was pretty good. However, After 50 minutes of baking and 10 minutes of setting it cool- it's still a little bit liquidy in the middle area. So I baked it for another 15 minutes and let it set for 10 more minutes to let it cool, the middle area became firm.