3.20.15 Bacon, Parmesan, and Cherry Tomato Strata
This warmer spring-like weather has me thinking about summer. I’m sure you feel the same. I know we’ve only had a few days above 60 degrees so far, but even weather in the 40s and 50s seems downright balmy compared to those bitterly cold days of January and February. It’s enough to make you start thinking about things like tomatoes.
I know, I know, tomatoes are not in season yet, not even close. But I miss them! And while dreaming tomato dreams, I had this great idea to use them in a savory bread pudding I was making. And so, I broke down and bought a pint of cherry tomatoes. They’re small and sweet, and once you cook them down with bacon, garlic and balsamic vinegar, you can’t even taste that they’re not in season.
Now, while this dish is in fact a bread pudding, it technically resides in the small offshoot category of bread puddings known as stratas. Strata means layers, and when you see how this dish is constructed, you’ll immediately understand its name. Instead of mixing all of the ingredients together, the tomato and bacon mixture is layered between two layers of eggy, custardy bread before baking. It’s like a little tasty surprise just waiting for you to dig into. The result is one terrifically tasty dish that makes you think of summer, but at the same time is warm and cheesy and filling enough for colder weather. Best of both worlds? I think yes.
Bacon, Parmesan and Cherry Tomato Strata
This is a great way to use up any less than fresh bread you might have lying around. Stale bread is perfect for bread pudding since it will help the bread keep its texture in the dish and not turn to mush.
- 1 lb good sourdough, cut into about 1 inch cubes (I love using Madison Sourdough Co.’s country sourdough for this)
- 1 ½ cups milk, heated until almost boiling
- 4 slices of bacon, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 scallions, chopped
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 large eggs
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
- 2.5 oz cream cheese, at room temp, cut into small pieces
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. If your bread is not already stale, lay the bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, until they crisp up slightly. Or, if you plan ahead, you can leave the bread cubes lying out on your kitchen counter overnight to help speed up the staling process.
3. Place stale bread cubes in a large bowl and pour the warm milk over them. Let sit, stirring occasionally, until most of the milk has been absorbed by the bread, about 10 -15 minutes.
4. While bread is soaking, cook bacon pieces in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they are just beginning to crisp up.
5. Add the garlic, scalllions, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes to the pan, and continue to cook until tomatoes soften and start to burst, about 5 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook 1 minute more.
6. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt and pepper. Add to the bread mixture, along with ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, stirring well to combine.
7. Spread half of the bread mixture into a greased 8x8 casserole dish and top with the tomato/bacon mixture, followed by an even layer of cream cheese pieces. Cover with the remaining bread mixture and top everything with the remaining ½ cup grated parmesan.
8. Bake strata at 350 degrees until puffed and golden, about 45 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.