Wednesday, December 26, 2012
grandma lolo's famous holiday breakfast casserole (and a gluten-free, dairy-free version)
Whew. I'm pretty sure that was the longest blog title I've ever typed. So long, in fact, that now I'm completely famished.
Today I want to share one of my favorite parts of the holidays. In the beginning, my grandma would bring this over every year on Christmas morning. And then, one year, my mom asked her to make it on Thanksgiving. And then Easter. And then... well, the long and the short of it is that my family now gets together most holidays for dinner and for this amazing breakfast. When I was a teenager I started going over the night before to help her put it together, and in the last couple years, as it's gotten harder for her to make it, I've taken it over as my own tradition.
It's astonishingly easy to make - it just takes a little time to prep, and you've got to do it the night before. But then it's worth it, when you've got the most fluffy, cheesy, sausagey, delicious breakfast to pair with mimosas. Promise.
4 c. dried white bread (I use Oro Wheat Country White), cubed
1 package Jimmy Dean sausage (I use the "natural" kind)
2 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
4 c. milk
1 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
Before you do anything else, find yourself a trusted sous chef. They come in handy. For my grandma, it was me. For me, it's Louis (and J). Then butter a 9"x13" pyrex pan.
Cook the sausage over medium heat until it's brown and crumbly, then drain on a plate with a paper towel. Feel free to reward your sous chef with a couple little pieces.
Make sure your white bread is nice and dried out. In theory, you could just leave it out all day, and that would work fine, but I never plan ahead enough to do that, so I usually lay the slices out on a cookie sheet and bake it at a low temperature for about 5-10 minutes until they're a little crisp. You'll probably need about half the loaf, give or take. This year I made an extra batch, and I still had some slices left over.
Cube about 4 cups of the bread, and arrange it in the bottom of the buttered pan.
Cover the bread with the shredded cheddar cheese. Two cups is conveniently the size that comes pre-shredded, and is enough to make it tastefully cheesy, but you could mix it up a little. For example, because I was making extra this year, I had too much cheddar on hand. I snuck the rest of it in. No one complained.
Lightly beat the eggs, then combine them with the milk, onion powder, mustard, salt, and pepper, and mix well. Pour evenly over the bread and cheese, and sprinkle the crumbled sausage on top. Cover with foil, and chill overnight.
In the morning, bake the casserole at 325 degrees until it rises and begins to turn a lovely golden color, approximately one hour. Let it sit for five minutes, then cut into slices and serve!
This year I had the added challenge of making something delicious for my mother-in-law. She's really, really allergic to gluten, and she doesn't do so well with dairy either. Last time I tried to sub in gluten-free bread and soy milk for this breakfast casserole, it turned out pretty dismally. So I did a bunch of research, and disappointed with just about everything I found, decided to wing it and trust my gut.
I kept it really simple for her, and it turned out well. I used roasted red potatoes instead of bread in the bottom (you can use the frozen kind, just make sure to check ingredients, as some brands have wheat in them), mixed the eggs with the same spices and a little water, and added a healthy dose of sausage. It all mixed together and was more of a quiche than a casserole, but it was simple to put together and didn't make her feel like she had to miss out.
I hope your holiday was as delicious and fun as ours, and I'm happy I get to document this tasty casserole. One last tip - make sure you have extra champagne on hand for mimosas!