Monday, December 23, 2013

Make Ahead Breakfast Casserole

 With everyone's crazy busy schedules, it's sometimes hard to get everything done. So when it comes to cooking for a holiday breakfast or brunch, it's always a good thing to do as much as you can in advance. And that brings us to today's casserole. This is a hearty one dish meal that is a great do ahead the night before, and then all you need to do is pop it in the oven in the morning. Easy, right? It also feeds a crowd, so it's perfect for the whole family, or you can even bring it to your holiday brunch. This is a tweaked version of a Paula Deen recipe, so I can't take all the credit for it, but I did make a few changes. A little more of this, a little less of that, a few additions, and here we are! Serve it up with something light, like a fresh fruit salad, and you have a perfect holiday breakfast!

3 tablespoons butter (or a few glugs of oil)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large bag frozen hash browns
1 pound bulk sausage, mild, hot or sage
1 lb diced ham
2 1/4 cups whole milk
8 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons mustard (any kind)
8 slices of bread, cubed
2 cups  shredded Cheddar (or any other good melting cheese)

Spray a deep 13 by 9-inch casserole dish with vegetable oil cooking spray.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the onion and saute over medium-low heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the hash browns and break apart. Saute until golden.
In a second frying pan, saute the sausage, breaking apart large clumps. Add the diced ham. When the sausage is cooked through and the ham is lightly browned, remove from heat and set aside.. 
In a large mixing bowl, combine the milk, eggs, salt, pepper, and mustard.
To assemble, spread the onions and hash browns evenly at the bottom of the greased dish. Place the bread cubes evenly on top of hash browns. With a slotted spoon distribute sausage and ham as the third layer. Pour the milk and egg mixture over these layers. Top with Cheddar cheese. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate overnight.
The next morning, take the casserole out of the fridge about a half hour before you bake it.
Bake the casserole, in a preheated 350º oven, uncovered, for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the eggs are set and everything is melted and bubbly.

 You don't have to make this the night before. You can assemble it and then let it sit for a little while so the bread soaks up the eggs, then bake as directed.
 I think, perhaps, the next time I make this I'll just fry up some potatoes instead of using the hash browns. I found myself wanting bigger chunks of potato. I bet tater tots would work really well here too.
 Feel free to switch this up as much as you like. Use any combination of meats or veggies you like.  Add bacon, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, red or green bell peppers, mushrooms, or whatever you like! Basically, anything you would throw into an omelet will work here. Come to think of it, adding red bell pepper and a green veggie would make this casserole oh so festive if you're making it for Christmas morning!

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