Stale Bread

stale_bread
Hmm…not an inspiring title for a post on a cooking blog, but many of us have to deal with stale bread now and again. Okay, let’s call it “day-old” bread. Makes it a little bit more palatable.

I have three quarters of a loaf of “day-old” bread (though it is more likely three-day-old bread) sitting forlornly in the bread bin, scorned even by the toaster. So, does it go from bread bin to rubbish bin? It seems a sad, ignoble end for what was once a lovely, crusty pain de campagne.

I have several options:

  1. Bread crumbs – have lots already.
  2. Bread Pudding – too predictable, besides, I need something savory for supper.
  3. Bread Salad, like a Tuscan panzanella – better idea, but only really good when fresh tomatoes are at their best – so, not in the depths of December.
  4. Ribollita or similar soup – have too much bread for this, although this goes on the alternate list. Really love ribollita.
  5. Strata … yes, that’s it! After all, it’s just a savory bread pudding.

A quick check of supplies confirms I have the makings for a strata. I have chives in a pot on the window sill, lots of eggs, milk, cheese in the refrigerator. And, there’s some veggies to consider. I might even add bacon or organic sausage, like my Dad used to add in his Christmas holiday breakfast strata. And, of course, there’s the “day-old” bread. Looks like I’m set.

feb_strata

Full English Strata
When I started assembling the ingredients, it reminded me of some of the elements in a Full English Breakfast – bread, egg, sausage, mushrooms (though, I drew the line with adding baked beans!). Hence the name for the recipe. If you are going to have this for breakfast or brunch, it can be assembled the night before, refrigerated and then baked in the morning.

  • Approximately 8 one inch thick slices of “day-old” bread from a crusty loaf
  • 5 Eggs
  • 2-1/4 cups Milk
  • 1/4 cup chopped Chives
  • 1-1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter
  • 8 oz. Chestnut mushrooms
  • 2 cups chopped Kale (approximately 4 oz.)
  • 1 lb. plain organic pork sausage
  • 1 teaspoon Smoked paprika
  • Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a shallow casserole, approximately 13 x 9 inches.

In a large mixing bowl, rip the bread slices into chunks. In another bowl, beat the eggs and add the milk, chives and 1 cup of the grated cheese. Pour this mixture onto the bread chunks and stir it with a wooden spoon, making sure that all the bread has been coated with the milk-egg mixture. Set this aside and let the bread absorb the liquid while you prepare the sausage and vegetables.

feb_strata_prep1

Thinly slice the mushrooms. Clean and remove the fibrous kale rib before chopping. Take the sausage meat out of their casings and fry in a large pan or skillet, breaking up the pieces as they cook. When the sausage is cooked, remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and put in a bowl. Pour off any excess fat. In the same pan, sauté the mushrooms and when the are done, add the kale and sprinkle on the smoked paprika. Season with salt and pepper according to taste. Place a lid on the skillet so that the kale can steam and wilt (about 5-10 minutes). Remove lid, turn off the heat and return the sausage. Mix.

feb_strata_prep2

In the buttered casserole, spoon on half of the bread mixture, then add a layer of half the sausage-mushroom-kale mix, topping that with the other half of the bread and finally the last of the meat and veg. Sprinkle on the remaining 1/2 cup of grated Cheddar cheese and season with a little black pepper.

feb_strata_prep3

Bake for 30 minutes until the top is browned.

Serve with grilled tomato halves – another traditional element in the Full English Breakfast. And, don’t forget the Hendersons (or Worcestershire sauce for those of you who don’t live in the North of England!).
hendersons

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11 comments

    • I haven’t yet explored the issue, but I think there are a lot more traditional country-style dishes made with leftover bread. In Tuscany, where the bread is made without salt, it gets stale quite quickly and is used in all sorts of things – like the panzanella and ribollita. And, I am sure that other countries have similar traditions. Just need to find them!

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  1. I have never heard of it before but looks yummy. I can’t throw out stale bread, I just end up with my freezer full of it until I make a batch of nuggets or schnitzels….I might have to add this to my list now

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  2. My family has a similar recipe for Christmas breakfast…. it must have circled the globe…. A wonderful post about what to do with bread and I loved the way you wrote it… could just hear you thinking through what to do with the left over bread… I love bread pudding… with brandy and even chocolate… Sue
    womenlivinglifeafter50.com

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    • The real inspiration for this came from my Dad’s Christmas holiday breakfast strata, so it is likely that yours is from the same source. I read (in Wikipedia) that stratas were an American invention. They are not so common here in Britain, except that Nigella Lawson, on one of her TV Christmas cookery specials, made a lovely cheese and spring onion strata. But, I’ve noticed that some of her recipes seem to be inspired by American ones. Now, bread pudding is definitely a British tradition! Yes, I love it, too – especially made with leftover panettone after Christmas!

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  3. I’m the same! The freezer gets jammed with ends of bread. In the summer we regularly have bread salads and then there are the soups… Yes, schnitzels are also on the list. I think that strata is an American invention – at least according to Wikipedia. 🙂

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  4. Wow! I’m always looking for ideas for stale bread. We make it a lot and don’t eat all of it, which leaves lots for yummy dishes like this. Hope you don’t mind, but let me share one of my favorite ways to use it. Here’s the link: http://wp.me/p3b3xD-1F.

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    • Yes, having a savoury option or two is always a good thing. We always seem to have leftover bread. Stratas were an American invention and were popular when I was growing up, particularly for holiday breakfasts since they could be made up the night before and baked the next morning.

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