This is an adaptation of a recipe that came from one of my many magazines, probably Sunset. I played with it to add some more healthy girth to the dish. The results were very colorful and a happy melding of flavors. It is definitely an improvement on the traditional egg and sausage casserole that inevitably shows up for brunch potlucks (which was the purpose of this dish).
Sun-dried Tomato and Sausage Strata
1 1/2 pound pork sausage
3 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 1/2 cup frozen corn
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, drained and julienned
1 cup green onion, diced
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp coriander
2 cups smoked mozzarella, shredded
1 loaf day-old Italian style bread, cubed
1. Brown sausage, crumble and drain.
2. In bowl, combine eggs, milk, ricotta, cilantro, cumin, salt and pepper and whisk until blended.
3. In separate bowl, combine tomatoes, green onion, mushrooms and coriander.
4. In greased 9x13 casserole dish, spread layer of bread cubes. Spread half of corn-tomato mixture, half of sausage and 1 cup mozzarella over bread. Pour half of egg mixture over the layers. Repeat the process with the second layer.
5. Cover and refrigerate for eight hours or overnight.
6. Remove from fridge for 1/2 hour before baking.
7. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until the egg is set.
Lessons learned: I couldn't find seasoned sausage that wasn't in a casing, so I seasoned ground pork with brown sugar, salt, pepper, sage, nutmeg, thyme and crushed red pepper. It worked just fine even though it was supposed to marinade for eight hours first.
I like that this dish has a lot of non-egg substance to it. The original recipe called for plum tomatoes, but I thought that would add too much water to the dish, so I used sun-dried tomatoes. I liked the results. Next time, I'll add in some garlic and a little more salt to the egg mixture. I also think it needs to bake a little longer than 50 minutes. The middle wasn't runny, but it didn't set as well as I would have liked. If you extend the cooking time, cover it for the last 10 to 20 minutes, so the sausage doesn't dry out.
I suppose you could substitute regular mozzarella or another cheese, but the hint of smokiness from the smoked mozzarella really is nice. And, it melts really well. It's worth the extra dollar or two to add it, I think.
The original also called for bacon instead of sausage. I am a firm believer that the only way to eat bacon is if it is crispy. This would have made it soggy, so I omitted it. It would be fine as a topping, though. Personally, I like the meatiness of the sausage. Turkey sausage would also work. Or, go more vegetarian and omit the sausage altogether. I think well-chopped broccoli would be a nice substitute.