The Day Family strata is called something rather anti-feminist, highly unmodern, and cringeworthy. It’s embarrassing to type and a challenge to verbalize.
It’s called “Christmas Morning Wife Saver” and it’s a Canadian tradition (according to my very limited research from the cooks who invented it over on The Best of Bridge website). The name, “Wife Saver,” does not align with my current feminist values nor does it invoke a particularly tasty image of breakfast. It’s a layered affair in a glass casserole dish that goes like this:
Bottom: white bread with the crusts cut off
Middle: ham and cheese slices (Note: My mom was a truly excellent cheese slicer (the precision, the even cuts) and she would always sneak a few pieces for herself and our old family dog while making the Wife Saver. I’m quite certain they’re eating cheese together in an alternate universe as I write this and it makes me extremely giggly to think about.)
Top: white bread with the crusts off
Egg mixture: eggs, whole milk, dried mustard, salt, pepper
Topping: melted butter, crushed corn flakes (the original recipe calls for Special K as a corn flake alternative––never in my life would that be have been accepted by my family)
We ate the Wife Saver with a (requisite) lattice of ketchup and drank several glasses of pulp-free orange juice. It was the only time our family had breakfast together the entire year. (Okay, maybe we had some family breakfasts together at our cottage up north during the summer, but rarely.)
Like Wife Saver’s name and melange of ingredients, the holiday season itself is layered with oddities. It’s full of preferences and requirements. It’s full of mishaps and curiously-named foods. It’s full of headaches and heartaches and stomachaches. But it’s also full of family, friends, and food (and presents!––oops…).
Even though Wife Saver’s name is antiquated and needs a “Because it’s 2015” makeover, it’s freaking delicious. I have fond memories of the once-a-year eggy soufflé. And the leftovers were killer, which, let’s be honest, makes the recipe even better.
My family loves Wife Saver. They love it so much, we’ve already discussed the dish twice this month. My older brother is its number one fan, and I believe my sister-in-law made Wife Saver for their growing family the last couple of Christmases. My younger sister has celiac disease, so she’s the default gluten-free Wife Saver eater at the table (and not a cook, but an excellent food critic); I’ve made a gluten-free version using gluten-free bread for her and it was edible, albeit, not so scrumptious texture-wise. And my dad, well, he’s Mr. Christmas and will be deliriously happy with anything. Sadly, my sister can’t participate in my grand strata/Wife Saver antithesis with the sourdough on Christmas morning with me and my dad due to aforementioned celiac disease, but I’ll make her a baby gluten-free version so she can get a taste. I’ve used almond milk in this recipe as that’s what I always have handy, and my sister is also lactose intolerant, making yes, more food intolerances to cater to. Saying this, I wouldn’t say no to a bit of grated cheddar mixed throughout this recipe, because my gosh, it’s the holidays and I will eat as much cheese as my body will take this time of year, thank you very much. Cheese makes me merry and jolly like Santa.
As a tribute to, and much like my “mom’s strata recipe by another name,” my strata recipe is prepared the evening before and popped in the oven in the morning, an hour before you’re ready to eat; in present-opening time, this means one-third through unwrapping gifts, or when you’re nearly finished your first cup of coffee (it’s simple Christmas Math, people). Pull that rabbit out of your top hat and present the puffed, eggy, savoury bread pudding to a table full of gift-drunk family members. And for the love of all things good, call it a strata. All you need to know is that this gender-neutral, make-ahead, disaster-proof strata (that won’t stir an angry political discussion at the holiday breakfast table) is simply delicious. And ketchup or hot sauce are obviously welcome, if not the guests of honour to the strata party, a la Day Family.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
- 1 onion, diced
- ½ bunch kale (about 4 packed cups), de-stemmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
- ½ (1¼ pound loaf; so about ⅔ pound or 5 cups cubed) day-old, rustic-style sourdough rye or day-old rustic-style sourdough of choice, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 5 large eggs
- 2 cups unsweetened plain almond milk or milk of choice
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ground black pepper, to taste
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- In a large high-sided skillet, melt butter over medium. Add onion and sauté for 8–10 minutes, until soft and beginning to brown. Add kale, cover, and cook until wilted (about 1 minute; add a splash of water to hasten process). Stir to incorporate. Add to a large mixing bowl along with cubed bread. Grease a medium to large glass or ceramic casserole dish or large cast-iron skillet with butter. Add bread mixture in an even layer.
- In a medium bowl, whisk eggs until emulsified. Whisk in milk, thyme, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Slowly and evenly pour over bread mixture. Press down with your hands to make the bread soaks it up. Cover and refrigerate overnight, bringing to room temperature before popping it in the oven; if baking immediately, allow the strata to sit for 30 minutes before baking.
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Bake strata for 40 minutes–1 hour (depending on the depth of dish you used), until puffed and golden brown. Let sit for 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Leftovers reheat beautifully.
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Egg Farmers of Canada; I was compensated monetarily. Recipe, photographs, and opinion are my own.