No matter how consciously we try to shop, cook, and eat, it can feel like we end up with a few inevitable contributions to the compost — that wilting bunch of spinach that never made its way into a salad, that cheese in the back of the drawer with a bygone expiration date, that half loaf of hard bread. These misfit ingredients are part of the challenge — and the fun! — of reducing food waste in the home kitchen. I usually sneak them into a side dish, but this week, ReGrained’s Chef Phil shared a recipe where leftovers really shine: Egg Strata.
Made by soaking stale bread in eggs and milk, Egg Strata is like a casual quiche, with sourdough (or whatever you have lying around) replacing that finicky pie crust. Every bite delivers egg, cheese, veggies, and bread that’s squishy on the inside, crispy on the outside — in a way, it also evokes a deconstructed breakfast sandwich.
Egg Strata has all the qualities I look for in a leftover-buster. At its core, it’s just bread, milk, eggs, and cheese — kitchen staples I usually have on hand. Beyond that, it accommodates most anything and everything that’s wasting away in my fridge. Egg Strata adapts equally well to breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and makes a big enough dish that you can try it for all three. If you assemble it at night and pop it in the oven on a bleary morning, you’re sure to start your day feeling like a hero, even though it couldn’t be easier to prepare.
To make a strata, start by chunking stale bread into a casserole dish. (For a 9x13 dish, I found that about half a loaf worked well.)
Add any leftover veggies and meat, along with a big helping of grated cheese. This week, the clock was up on some spinach and Parmesan, but I’m scheming for leftover broccoli, cheddar, and bacon next time. Or how about ham, mushrooms, and Swiss?
Next, make a custard (which is way easier than it sounds). Simply combine equal parts eggs and milk — you want enough volume to cover the bread mix about halfway — and season it to your taste with spices, mustard, and/or herbs (like that bunch of cilantro that Taco Tuesday used less than half of).
Spread the custard over the bread and press down to get it fully soaked, a la French toast, then top the whole thing with more cheese. After setting up in the fridge, it’s ready to bake into something fluffy, gooey, and altogether redemptive.
The Egg Strata recipe below (more like an outline) is ever-forgiving, and ever-inviting on that morning before a grocery run. Give it a try, and share your thoughts and creations in the comments!
An Egg Strata Recipe to Fight Food Waste at Home
Makes one 9x13” casserole dish, serving 8-10.
In the fight against food waste, flexibility is key. Scale and adjust this recipe based on your fridge and pantry situation — any deep baking dish will work, and these amounts are suggestions, not rules.
- 8-10 cups stale bread, or about ½ of a standard loaf, cubed
- 4 cups raw tender greens or 2 cups cooked veggies
- 1 ½ cups grated cheese
- 8 eggs
- 3 cups milk
- 1 large pinch each of salt and black pepper
- 1 cup cooked meat like bacon or ham
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons chopped herbs that might be going bad in your fridge
- Melt a slab of butter in a pan, add the chopped onion and smashed garlic, and cook over medium heat until tender. (If you don’t have these ingredients, there’s no cause for alarm. Just skip this step and feel free to go a little crazier with your herbs and spices.)
- In a large bowl, gently mix the onions and garlic, bread, veggies, (optional) meat, and 1 cup of the grated cheese. Then spread the mixture into a 9x13 casserole dish.
- Reusing the bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, black pepper, salt and (optional) mustard and herbs.
- Pour the whisked mixture into the casserole dish over the dry ingredients, and sprinkle ½ cup of grated cheese on top. Cover and chill in the fridge for several hours, or overnight.
- Bake at 350F for 40-50 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the cheese on top has melted and the middle doesn’t jiggle when you shake it.
- Let the strata cool for 15 minutes, then slice, serve, and enjoy.