Cheese Strata

Bacon or ham optional, I guess?

Sausage, mushroom, and onion egg strata by jeffreyw, on Flickr

The essential elements of a classic strata are layers of cheese, sliced bread, and a white sauce (although the recipe is older than pre-sliced bread, which we talked about in the post for Yesterdish’s Pullman loaf). It sometimes traveled under the names stratta and estrada, but the concept was the same.

At some point in its evolution, people started adding eggs to make it a bit lighter; by the 1980s, the egg strata was more common than the original. The result is that the modern strata, which is kind of like a quiche or a fritatta, tastes nothing like the original strata, which was more like a lasagna.

An early version appeared in 1902’s Handbook of Household Science by Juniata L. Shepperd:

Cheese Strata.

Butter a baking dish, and in the bottom place thin slices of bread, just enough to cover the bottom. Cover the bread with a white sauce, then a layer of grated cheese one-quarter of an inch thick, then another layer of bread, more white sauce, and more cheese. Continue in this way until the desired amount is in the dish, having cheese on top. Cover the top with seasoned bread crumbs and bake in a slow oven fifteen or twenty minutes. Serve in dish in which it is baked.

And a version from 1921’s Elementary Home Economics by Mary Lockwood Matthews:

Cheese Strata

In the bottom of a buttered baking-dish place thin slices of bread, over this pour hot No. 3 White Sauce, on this a layer of grated cheese, then layers of bread, of white sauce, and more cheese, until the dish is filled. Cover the top with buttered bread crumbs. Bake in a slow oven about 30 minutes. Serve in baking-dish.

No. 3 White Sauce or Thick White Sauce
1 c. liquid
2 Tbsp. fat
3 Tbsp. flour
Used for thick sauces, creamed oysters.

Here’s a cheesy 1960s estrada as it appeared in the March 17, 1966 edition of the Laurel (Mississippi) Leader Call:

Olive-Cheese Estrada

Twelve slices day old white bread, 1 package (12 ounce) sliced pasteurized process American cheese, 12 slices, 1/2 cup finely chopped cooked ham, 1/3 cup sliced stuffed olives, 1/4 cup chopped onion, 4 eggs, 2-1/3 cups milk, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon paprika and 6 tomato slices.

Trim crusts from bread slices. Arrange half of bread slices in bottom of 2-quart shallow casserole. Cover with half the cheese slices. Combine ham, olives, and onion; spread an equal amount of mixture over cheese slices. Combine eggs, milk, salt, and paprika; beat slightly. Pour carefully over bread slices. Bake in slow oven (325 degrees F.) until egg mixture sets, about 1 hour. Five minutes before end of cooking time, place remaining cheese slices on bread slices; top with tomato slices. Let stand about 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with additional olive slices.

And here’s a cheesy Estrada from the early 1980s, as appeared in the March 21, 1982 episode of CHiPS, titled, “A Threat of War:”

Sorry, Erik. We’re all friends, we have fun here.

The recipe on the other side is for Diane’s sprague squirt cookies.

From the box of F.J. from Sun City, Arizona. Some cards suggest a family history in Missouri and Kansas.

Cheese Strata

12 slices white bread
3/4 pound sharp cheddar
2 pkgs. frozen chopped broccoli, cooked
2 tablespoons instant minced onion
6 slightly beaten eggs
3-1/2 cups milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
[ham or bacon]

  1. Cut 12″ “doughnuts and holes” from bread; set aside. Fit scraps of bread in bottom of 13×9 inch baking dish.
  2. Place cheese over bread. Add layer of broccoli, then ham or bacon.
  3. Arrange bread “doughnuts and holes” and sprinkle over instant minced onion.
  4. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over all. Cover ad refrigerate overnight. Bake uncovered at 325 deg. for 25 minutes (reduce 25 deg. for glass).

12 servings.

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