Is there anything better than a great ham and cheese sandwich? Well, if there ever was a contender, I'd say it'd be this recipe for Croque Monsieur Savory Bread Pudding. Or Strata. Or whatever the heck you want to call it. This recipe is basically a giant deconstructed Croque Monsieur (aka ham, cheese, French Bread, and all things delicious). With caramelized onions, fresh thyme, nutty cheese, and all sorts of toasty, crunchy bits, it's make ahead and easy to put together, which makes it pretty much perfect for lazy days and long brunches that I can only hope make up your New Year celebrations.
plus extra for coating pan
roughly chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
plus one teaspoon for garnish
plus more for garnish
stale or toasted, cut into 1-inch dice
(about 4.5 ounces)
cut into 1/2-inch dice
(about 1 ounce)
Coat a 2-quart (about 11-by-7-inch) baking dish with butter and set aside. Place a large frying pan over medium heat and add butter. When it foams, add onion, season with salt, stir, and cook until just softened, about 3 to 4 minutes Add garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook until beginning to soften and fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in thyme.
Whisk eggs, half-and-half, mustard, hot sauce, and salt in a large bowl until evenly combined. Arrange half of the bread in bottom of prepared dish. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the Gruyere and half each of onion mix and ham. Repeat layering with remaining bread, onion mixture, ham, and Gruyere cheese. Pour egg mixture over top.
Push to ensure bread is submerged in egg custard, cover with plastic wrap, put a plate and a 1-pound weight on top (a large can of tomatoes or rice in a re-sealable plastic bag works well), place in refrigerator for 3 to 12 hours.
When ready to bake, heat oven to 325°F and arrange rack in the middle. Let strata sit at room temperature while oven heats, at least 20 minutes. Bake for 20 minutes, then increase temperature to 375°F. Sprinkle parmesan over the strata and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until puffed and edges pull away slightly. Remove from oven and sprinkle over remaining thyme. Cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. Serve with hot sauce on the side.