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Easter Egg Strata, a recipe from Mrs. J. Robert (Lois) Hanson, featured as a Breakfast Brunch Dish in the cookbook “Entertaining with Imagination.” Carrie Snyder / Forum News Service

Elegant egg strata is a great dish for Easter

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FARGO — Last week we found our Easter menu inspiration in a new recipe from Down Under, but this week we’re hearkening back to an old family favorite with a recipe for egg strata.

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My mother has served this egg bake on Easter Sunday many times, and she often pairs it with fresh fruit, homemade cinnamon rolls and an apple sausage breakfast ring. This year we’ll be adding the Australian friands from last week’s column to round out our brunch menu.

Our family’s recipe comes from the cookbook “Entertaining with Imagination,” which was produced locally in 1978 by the Lake Agassiz Arts Council (now known as The Arts Partnership). The cookbook features hundreds of interesting recipes, all contributed by area residents to benefit local arts programs. To my surprise and delight, a quick online search revealed that used copies are available online for purchase on Amazon.

Today’s recipe was contributed by Mrs. J. Robert (Lois) Hanson, whose husband was the much-beloved conductor of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra from 1974 to 1990. The recipe appears in the cookbook under the title “Breakfast Brunch Dish,” but my family has always called it “Easter Egg Strata.”

A strata is similar to a frittata or quiche, and was originally made by layering the bread and filling to create layers, or strata, in the dish. This recipe, however, follows the simpler technique of a bread pudding by mixing everything together in one dish.

We love this recipe for several reasons. Hanson’s egg strata is visually appealing, moist, cheesy and delicious. But, perhaps best of all, it is extremely easy to make. The recipe calls for eight slices of bread, and we recommend using Breadsmith’s Rustic Italian or French bread because their thicker texture helps to better absorb the liquid. However, day-old or even stale bread will also work great.

After removing the crust from the bread, I cut it into cubes and set it aside. Next, I beat eight eggs together —a special gift for this occasion from our friend Renee Clasen, whose chickens produce gorgeous, farm-fresh eggs in a delightful variety of natural colors.

Hanson’s recipe also includes 1 pound of grated sharp cheddar cheese, and to further simplify the process I decided to use the grating attachment on my food processor. I’d never tried this before, but I’ll definitely use it again because that pound of cheese was grated in about 60 seconds.

To experiment, I decided to make one strata with regular sharp cheddar (I used Cracker Barrel) and one with a good-quality white cheddar. Both were delicious, but Tony and I preferred the creamy, full flavor of the white cheddar version just a bit more.

Whole milk, salt and dry mustard powder make up the remaining ingredients, but you could also use a mixture of lower-fat milk and half-and-half.

The strata needs to be refrigerated for several hours before baking, which enables the bread to fully absorb the egg, milk and cheese mixture, and overnight is even better. The dish will puff up quite a bit as it bakes, but expect it to deflate after removing from the oven. Allow it to stand for about five to 10 minutes before serving.

The recipe is perfect as is, but use your imagination to enhance it by changing the type of cheese or adding meat, fresh herbs, veggies or smoked salmon. We’re sure Mrs. Hanson won’t object.

Easter Egg Strata

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

8 slices of bread, crusts removed

8 eggs, well beaten

1 pound grated cheddar cheese, sharp

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons dry mustard

4 cups whole milk

Directions

Take crusts off bread and cube. Line bottom of well-buttered 9-by-13-inch pan with cubes. We simply mixed the bread cubes in the bowl with the liquid mixture before transferring to the baking dish.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, until the top is golden brown all over. Allow the strata to stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

For variation, add ham cubes, parsley, mushrooms, or anything else (we think smoked salmon or sausage would also taste great).

This recipe is from Mrs. J. Robert (Lois) Hanson, and is featured as Breakfast Brunch Dish in the cookbook “Entertaining with Imagination.”

Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple own Sarello’s restaurant in Moorhead, Minn., and live in Fargo with their 9-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at dine@sarellos.com. All previous recipes can be found at http://thelos titalian.areavoices.com.

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