I love the idea of serving a breakfast casserole, but I've had trouble finding one that isn't too rich. This one fits the bill! I served it at breakfast (minus the onion and red pepper), and it was a hit. I recommend cutting the whole strata into serving portions before letting your guests help themselves, or plate beforehand.
The strata above had baked for an hour when I took this photo. Although the center tested clean and was set, I put the casserole back in the oven for a few minutes to brown the center. Watch it closely the last few minutes so it doesn't get too dark.
1 pound loaf of Italian bread (or similar good rustic-type bread), cut into large cubes
1 cup good quality ham, diced
2 cups Swiss cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons minced chives
8 large eggs
4 cups milk
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
(optional: add 1/2 cup red bell pepper, 1 small onion, and/or 1 cup sliced mushrooms)
Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Saute veggies to remove liquid (if using). Arrange 1/2 of the bread cubes in the baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the ham, cheese, chives and veggies. Add another layer of bread, and cover it with remaining ham, cheese, chives and veggies.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, mustard, salt and pepper until well combined. Pour mixture over the bread and cheese layers. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees for about an hour. Let strata come to room temperature (on counter about 30 minutes). Bake, uncovered, until golden brown and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let stand 15 minutes, and serve.