Back to School Tea: Glazed Pepper Bacon and Classic Cheese Strata

Both the bacon and the strata bake at 350º. Put these two dishes in the oven and use the time to prepare the rest of the menu.

Glazed Pepper Bacon

Salty, sweetly smoky and just slightly fiery. This recipe serves about 6 to 8 people. You might think that’s a lot of bacon but believe me, it will disappear before your eyes.

1 ½ pounds thick cut bacon
fresh black pepper
½ cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350º. Line two jelly roll pans with foil for easy clean up.

Separate the strips and arrange them without overlapping on the pans. Grind fresh pepper all over the strips and then sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake without turning the strips. Pour off the fat about half way through or the bacon will not get crisp. Bake for about 25 minutes.

Classic Cheese Strata

Assemble this the night before your tea and pop it in the oven before your guests arrive. You can add to this basic version, onions, mushrooms, spinach, even sausage or pepperoni.

One 1- to 1 ½-pound loaf country or sourdough bread
1 ¼ cups grated cheese, Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Muenster or Brie
1 ½ cups small-curd cottage cheese
5 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Butter a deep 9 or 10 inch baking dish.

Slice the bread about ½ inch thick. Arrange the bread, grated cheese, cottage cheese in 2 or 3 equal alternating layers in the baking dish. Cut or tear bread slices if needed to make snug layers.

Whisk the eggs with the milk, mustard, slat and pepper. Pour the custard over the bread mixture. Drizzle with the melted butter. Cover and refrigerate the strata for at least 1 hour and up to overnight. Remove the strata from the fridge about a half hour before you plan to bake it to take the chill off.

Bake at 350º for 50-55 minutes, until puffed, golden brown and lightly set in the center.