Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Breakfast Casserole

This post is for members of the Clem family who recently asked for the recipe for my breakfast casserole.

When you have friends or family in town and need a quick, filling breakfast that can be prepared ahead (in case you need to nurse a hang-over), this is it. In my own experience, I've found it also goes wonderfully well with Bloody Mary's and Mimosa's and perhaps a side of potatoes, which are also great for that "day after" kind of breakfast. It's nothing fancy, but I've found the taste and hominess of the dish makes up for what it lacks in looks. If you're looking for an eye-catcher, finish the meal with my Cinnamon Nut Coffee Cake from the August 7, 2005 posting made in a fancy bundt pan.

Like the Cinnamon Nut Coffee Cake, the breakfast casserole is a dish my mom often made, but I've embellished it with additional veggies and herbs and have adjusted the egg/milk mixture ratio. Most importantly, I use good quality aged cheese. This past weekend, I first made traditional white bread in the breadmaker for the basic casserole and used some store bought sliced wheat bread for the other. On the wheat bread variation, I added fresh spinach and basil, then sprinkled freshly grated parmesan over the vegetables and added grated Swiss cheese instead of cheddar. Here's the basic recipe, feel free to embellish as you like.

Breakfast Casserole

12 to 14 slices white bread, crusts removed
1 stick of butter, melted

6 ounces cooked ham, cubed (more or less)
6 cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 green or red bell pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
fresh ground black pepper
6 ounces aged cheddar cheese, grated

6 Eggs
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
1 teaspoon paprika

Using a pastry brush, butter a 13X8" casserole dish with a little of the melted butter. Then, after removing the crusts from the bread, brush one side of 6 to 7 slices with the melted butter. Place the buttered side down in the casserole, in one layer, cutting the seventh piece in half if necessary to fill in on the ends. Layer the ham and then the diced vegetables over the bread. Salt and pepper the vegetables. Then sprinkle with grated cheese. On top of the filling, place the remaining 1/2 of the bread slices on one layer buttered side UP, again cutting one in half to fill in on the end of the pan if needed.

Beat the eggs with the milk, salt and paprika and poor the mixture over the bread slices. Cover the casserole with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator over night.

The next morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for about 40 to 45 minutes until lightly browned on top and the egg has set. Let cool slightly, then slice, serve and sit back and enjoy the company.

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