This year, I’m starting our Christmas celebration with a hearty dish of “Holiday Breakfast Strada with Kale.” A strada (meaning layers) is an American brunch casserole made with a mixture of eggs, cheese and stale bread. It is sort of a savory “bread pudding” or “French Toast” — perfect for us here in Louisiana. I still have Red Russian kale growing in my winter garden and am adding the kale, along with sweet white onions and seasonings, to my breakfast strada. It is a colorful, super-charged breakfast casserole. I think it is best to begin Christmas day — or really any day — on a full stomach. This casserole is so easy to make. Plus it can be pre-prepped the prior day. Then it is a simple matter of heating the oven and baking it on Christmas morning
Anything Goes, “Kitchen Sink Dump” Recipe
Of course, if your family is not a fan of kale, then no need to introduce this vegetable on Christmas morning. This is a “kitchen sink dump” recipe.” It is easy to substitute ingredients in or out of the breakfast casserole. For example, use baby spinach rather than kale — or omit both. Other ingredients can be added to this savory casserole such as diced ham or bacon, green onions, colorful bell peppers, mushrooms. Change the type of cheese — use smoked Gouda cheese or cheddar rather than Monterey Jack — or omit the cheese entirely to make a savory baked French toast. In other words, fix something your family will eat.
Fond Memories of Parade Magazine
A “strada” was first popularized in Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook published in 1984 by Julee Rosso and Shelia Lukins. These two ladies were based in New York City. They were some of the big culinary influencers of their age. This was long before the internet and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok– yes, there was life prior to the internet. Our “internet” was the newspaper and perhaps a cooking show on PBS. Rosso and Lukins wrote innovative cookbooks and edited a gourmet food column in the Sunday morning newspaper Parade Magazine insert after Julia Childs left the magazine. Those times — including Parade Magazine — are gone. But I’ll always have the memories of these ladies’ articles — we used so many of their recipes at holiday meals. Here is one of their later cookbooks which I enjoyed to browse through for the latest ideas back in those days.
I love French toast and often make a baked version using either my oven or Instant Pot . A strada is similar to French toast except that French toast tends to be sweeter while a strada is savory and it includes cheese.
I added a sweet, white onion flavor in the casserole — because I love onions and it complements the kale. The diced red pimento adds a red Christmas color. The seasonings in my casserole are salt, pepper and dry ground mustard. My choice for cheese is a mild Monterey Jack cheese. You could substitute Gouda, Parmesan or cheddar cheese or omit the cheese entirely.
We have lots of crumbly, airy French bread in Louisiana. I have also used stale white bread in this casserole or denser French bread. You need about 6 cups of packed bread cubes or 12 oz. I would not recommend a sweet bread such as challah in this casserole as these the sweetness may clash with savory flavors in this mixture.
Making the Casserole
To make the casserole, pre-prep the all the ingredients. Red Russian is a mild kale and can be eaten either raw or cooked. When cooking kale, it still involves removing the center stem which is too tough to eat. To prep the kale, wash the kale leaves, rinse and drain them. Remove the center stem by folding each leaf in half lengthwise and cutting out the stem. Roll up the leaves like a cigarette and slice the rolls Then cut across the segments to make strands of kale.
Saute the onions and then add the kale. Kale will cook down and it seems to evaporate. Even if this seems like alot of kale, it will reduce in volume.
Making the rest of the casserole is simple. Blend the eggs very well with a wire whip. Add the milk and seasonings. Mix in the cheese, chopped pimento, sautéed onions and kale. Gently fold in the bread cubes. Place the mixture into a well-oiled casserole dish. Either bake immediately or refrigerate overnight and bake in the morning.
I baked this casserole in a 9″ diameter deep dish pie casserole in a 325 degree oven for 40 minutes. The casserole will puff up, then fall down as it cools.
Enjoy family, friends and memories this holiday season. I prepare this type of strada or French toast casserole frequently during the year for a substantial brunch. It is extra special at Christmas time. Enjoy.
- 6 oz Red Russian kale (2 cups firmly packed kale which is stemmed, chopped)
- 12 oz (6 cups packed) French bread or stale white bread
- 1 Tbsp oil plus oil for casserole dish
- 1/2 sweet, white onion, chopped (about 1 cup, chopped)
- 6 large eggs
- 1-1/2 cup milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 Tbsp chopped pimento
- fresh parsley, optional garnish
- orange slices, optional garnish
Method and Steps:
- Oil 9″ round deep dish pie casserole. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
- Pre-prep kale. Thoroughly wash kale under running water. Rinse, drain and pat dry. Fold each kale leaf in half. Use a large kitchen knife to slice and remove center stem. Then place leaf halves on top of each other and roll up like a cigarette roll. Slice rolls. Then cut through rolls crosswise to make slivers. Set kale aside.
- Cut French bread or stale white bread into 1″ cubes. You need about 6 cups packed bread cubes. Set aside.
- Heat 1 Tbsp oil in large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and saute for about 10 minutes until onion is translucent. Reduce heat if onion begins to burn.
- Add kale slivers to skillet. Cook, tossing frequently, for about 5 minutes until kale wilts.
- Meanwhile, place eggs in large bowl and beat with wire whip into eggs are blended and creamy yellow.
- Add milk and stir to combine.
- Add in seasonings — salt, pepper and ground mustard.
- Mix in sautéed onion and kale.
- Add chopped pimento.
- Carefully fold in bread cubes, tossing to coat all the cubes with egg/milk mixture.
- Transfer to oiled deep dish pie casserole and toss to combine all ingredients, mixing in any egg/milk on the bottom of the casserole dish.
- Bake in 325 degree oven for 40 minutes. Casserole should not “jiggle” in center. It will puff up and be browned on top.
- Alternatively, rather than baking immediately, cover and place in refrigerator. When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature while oven pre-heats. Then bake for 40 minutes in 325 degree oven..
- If desired, garnish with fresh parsley and orange slices.