This green eggs and ham strata is soft and tender inside, crunchy and golden on top, and perfect for a crowd. Plus, it’s a complete meal all in one dish!
Tonight we drive to Cleveland. It sounds like a grand proclamation. And it sort of is. We’re going to see some good friends of ours for the first time since their family of three (the third being a very sweet yellow lab) became a brood of four.
I’m pretty pumped for the visit. I’m excited for Eddie to sneak out of work a little early so we can hit the road, listen to tunes, eat shitty fast food that I already know is a horrible idea (but see if that stops me), and arrive in the wee hours of the morning to sleep at a moderately priced airport hotel. The next day we’ll wake up, shower, and pop on over to spend the day with our friends, where we’ll probably talk a lot about pooping and feeding schedules, and be over the moon with their new addition.
But let’s back up for just a second there…somewhere before oohing and aahing over a teeny tiny baby, but after the whole wake up routine…ah yes, there will be breakfast. Not just any breakfast though – FREE BREAKFAST.
Eddie and I would love to be those people that only stay in one of a kind, boutique hotels with fabulous on site restaurants and luxurious frette bathrobes…actually I would love to be that person – I’m pretty sure Eddie would take a hard pass though (he’s much more practical). But at the end of the day, when the reason for renting a room is purely to crash out at a late hour after a long drive, we will happily opt for the unremarkable, mid-range chain hotel with the fluffy pillows and the DIY waffles.
So now that you understand where our priorities sit, let’s get back to the breakfast. I’m not dumb. I know the continental spread is how shall we say, not good. And although I’m more than willing to pony up some dollar bills for a proper meal at some nearby establishment, I just cannot resist the siren song of the complimentary breakfast.
I don’t know exactly what the lure is for me. It certainly isn’t the stale muffins, dusty oatmeal packets, or suspiciously unrefrigerated hard-boiled eggs. In situations where the pickings are slim, I’ll usually just grab a bowl of rice krispies, a banana, and some coffee, and be on my way. But occasionally the spread is surprising. I hesitate to use the word “good” because that might imply that the quality of the food on offer is up to par with what you could make at home, or might get at a mediocre diner. No, it’s never good. But surprising…yes indeed.
Mostly the surprise registers as mildly pleasant – make your own waffles, foil wrapped breakfast sandwiches, hotel pans full of wispy bacon and powdered eggs. Once I came downstairs to find biscuits and sausage gravy (that was probably the best). And while I may never meet a hotel breakfast that absolutely slays me, it will still be a small part of traveling that always makes me smile.
Green Eggs and Ham Strata
This is what I would serve for breakfast if I owned a moderately priced hotel somewhere in middle America. It’s easy to make, hearty, cheesy, and I bet people would love that Dr. Seuss reference. But as I don’t foresee adding any hotels to my portfolio in the near or distant future, this stellar savory breakfast/brunch dish is relegated to my own home, and for non-paying guests only.
What is a strata?
Strata is just a fancy word for a casserole made up of layers of bread, veggies, meats, and other goodies, that gets flooded with a rich, eggy custard and baked until puffy and golden brown. Think of it like a bread pudding, but with a crunchy, cheesy lid.
You can put all manner of “stuff” in your strata, this dish is really more about a method than anything else. Get bread crisp, layer it in a buttered baking dish with add-ins of your choice, pour over a mixture of eggs and dairy, top with cheese, and bake. It’s the perfect make ahead dish (as you can assemble the whole thing and bake it off in the morning) and it’s great for a crowd because bread = filler.
How to make green eggs and ham strata
The basic strata method is pretty tried and true, regardless of what kind of strata you’re into. But this one has a few tricks up its sleeve that makes it a super savory, incredibly easy, breakfast dish that ends up being a real crowd pleaser.
Make your croutons
Most strata recipes call for drying your bread out in a hot oven. This is an integral step, as you need the bread to be dry enough to soak up the custard without getting sad and soggy. But if I’m going to go through the trouble of ripping up a loaf of bread and popping it into a hot oven, well I’m already two thirds of the way to a crouton, and croutons sound way better than plain old dry bread, now don’t they?
Croutons are pretty straight forward. Pieces of bread, seasoned and toasted up in some sort of fat. In this case I use butter that I melt down with a few cloves of crushed garlic, and some basic S&P. Because I’m making a ton (about 8 cups, or as many as you can comfortably fit onto a half sheet pan), I make these in a hot oven. Also, I’m baking the strata in there later, so the oven may as well pull double duty.
The other distinction with these croutons is that they are torn, not sliced. You won’t find any perfectly cubed pieces of bread here. When you tear bread into pieces you get all sorts of irregular crags and crannies, which get majorly crispy in the oven and also give this strata a more rustic, homey feel. Plus, it’s kinda fun to just rip away at a loaf of bread IMO.
Blend up your custard
Custard is just a mixture of eggs and dairy. You can turn custard into lots of things. Flan, ice cream, quiche, bread pudding, and duh, strata. This custard is just like those others (obviously sans any sugar of course), except we’re taking it in a decidedly Seussian direction. The name of the dish is green eggs and ham strata afterall.
I tested this recipe a couple of times where I sauteed the kale separately and then layered it into the dish along with all the other ingredients, but one that meant I had another pan to wash (not ideal) and two the thing was not nearly as green as I had originally envisioned. To really get that vibrant color I ended up blending the raw kale in with the eggs, milk, and half and half. It’s the weirdest smoothie I’ve ever made, but it totally results in a very pleasant, not at all off putting, shade of green, dappled throughout the dish. And bonus points for fewer dishes and less prep!
Assemble the strata
Now that you have your crispy croutons and minty green custard base you can get to building those layers! Start with a buttered baking dish (there is leftover garlic butter in the recipe specifically with this in mind). Then pop in a layer of croutons, sprinkle over some chunky ham, blanket with cheese and repeat. But just before the final showering of cheese, pour your creamy, green custard all over.
Bake the strata
A lot of strata recipes call for resting the assembled dish overnight in the fridge before baking. This is totally fine to do if you’re prepping this the night before, but entirely unnecessary. The custard will soak into the croutons just fine, and the whole thing will bake up perfectly puffy and golden without an overnight chill.
Regardless of schedule, you’ll bake this, covered with foil for 40 minutes. Then remove the foil and let the strata get brown and bubbly. It’s done when puffed up, golden brown, and set in the middle. You can test this by inserting a knife into the dead center. If it comes out wet and eggy, it needs some more time.
*Pro tip: use a little butter or non-stick spray to grease your aluminum foil. That way you’re less likely to pull up the entire top layer of strata when you remove the foil.
What to serve with green eggs and ham strata
Because this is a one stop shop sort of a dish, the sides can be super simple. A seasonal fruit salad and some bubbly brunch beverages should do the trick.
But if you’re feeding an army, here are some of my other favorite breakfast and brunch treats to round out your table.
- Brown Sugar Oatmeal Muffins
- Baked Peanut Butter Donuts with Dark Chocolate Glaze
- Homemade Cold Brew Coffee
- Lemon Yogurt Cheesecake Parfaits
- My Favorite Homemade Granola
Green Eggs and Ham Strata
This green eggs and ham strata is cheesy, savory, and great for your next brunch party.
- Prep Time: 15 Minutes
- Cook Time: 80 Minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
- Yield: 10 Servings 1x
- Category: Breakfast
- Cuisine: American
4 T unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
One large loaf of country or sourdough bread, torn into bite sized pieces (about 8 cups)
6 large eggs
1 1/2 C whole milk
1 C half and half
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
5 oz kale, ribs removed
1 T chopped thyme
2 C cubed ham
1 1/2 C grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/2 C grated gruyere or emmentaler cheese
Preheat your oven to 375.
Melt butter with garlic over medium low heat. Let it sizzle gently for about a minute. Let cool for a few minutes. Spread your bread pieces out in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Season lightly with salt and pepper and drizzle over three tablespoons of your garlic butter. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until light golden brown and crunchy. Set aside.
In a blender combine the eggs, milk, half and half, salt, pepper, kale, and chopped thyme. Blend until mixture is thoroughly combined and frothy. The kale may not entirely break down, which is fine. The custard should be light and minty green in color.
Grease a 9×13 baking dish with the remaining garlic butter. Layer in half of the croutons, followed by half of the ham and half of your grated cheese. Repeat with the remaining croutons and ham. Then pour the custard evenly over all of the croutons. Top with the remaining cheese.
Cover tightly with lightly greased aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes or until puffed, golden brown, and set in the middle. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
Feel free to substitute different cheeses, meats, or leafy greens in this. Just keep the ratios of bread to add-ins to custard about the same, and you’ll be golden.
Finding thick cut ham is sometimes tricky. I suggest buying a ham steak, which can be found in the meat case, by the larger cuts of ham. I used one 8 ounce ham steak in this recipe.
Greasing the side of the aluminum foil that touches the strata helps to prevent the top layer of strata from sticking to the foil.
Cooking times may vary by five to ten minutes, give or take, depending on how shallow your baking dish is. A good rule of thumb is to begin checking at around minute 50.
Keywords: green eggs and ham strata, green eggs and ham casserole, breakfast casserole, easy brunch dish, brunch for a crowd, brunch party dish