Which is better? Staying home for Saturday/Sunday brunch or trying to go out? My preference is a warm sunny deck, the perfect Bloody Mary, like our Back Pocket Provisions mixes with Simon’s Sunday Morning Spice as a rimmer or Clamato Juice, and a brunch entreé which takes almost no work the morning of. A friend has recently decided to do a post-wedding brunch for 75 the day after her daughter’s wedding. After I couldn’t talk her out of it, I shared the Breakfast Casserole recipe with her as it serves many and can be made and even frozen ahead. It’s adaptable for meat eaters or ovo-lacto vegetarians. You may add a salad of seasonal fruit and yogurt and sit down to visit with your guests.
This recipe is based upon a Melissa Clark recipe from the New York Times, but, as usual, I have made my own modifications. By the way, one of the greatest resources on a good recipe site is the comment section. If you do not already, read them. They are full of creative ideas from experienced cooks. Of course, there is always the “ I changed everything about the recipe, but it’s a really great recipe,” people, but most of them can be very helpful. Happy eating!
Based on Melissa Clark’s recipe. Yield: 8-10 Servings
Time: 1 1/2 hours, plus 4 hours or overnight chilling
1 pound (at least 7) croissants split lengthwise or 1 loaf of brioche bread, sliced
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil for the skillet and the baking dish
1 bunch scallions, sliced thinly, reserve the green parts
3/4 pound Sweet Italian Sausage or breakfast sausage. Remove casings.
(If you are making a vegetarian version, sauté 1 pound of sliced mushrooms with the scallions. Be sure to sauté them long enough for them to reabsorb their liquid and brown a bit on the edges.)
2 teaspoons rubbed or fresh sage
8 large eggs
2-3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Heat oven to 400-500 degrees. Spread croissants or slices on a large baking sheet and toast, cut side up, until golden brown, 5-10 minutes, watching carefully. Let cool and tear into large pieces.
In a skillet over medium high heat, warm the olive oil. Add sliced scallions and sausage meat. While it browns, break it up with a fork. Stir in sage and remove from heat.
In a large bowl, toss together croissant (or brioche) pieces and sausage mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cream, 1 1/2 cup cheese, salt and pepper.
Oil a 9X13 inch baking dish. Put croissant mixture into the pan and spread it evenly over the bottom. Pour custard into pan, pressing croissant down to help absorb the liquid. Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.*Once this is done, you may decide, if there is not too much liquid, to freeze the casserole. If there is quite a bit of liquid, you may decide to bake it before freezing. See reheating instructions at the end.
For Baking: Heat the over to 350 degrees. Scatter the remaining cheese over the top of the casserole. Place in the over and bake until the casserole is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 45 minutes. If your are using a meat thermometer, it should register 165 degrees. Let is stand for 10 minutes, garnish with sliced scallion greens before serving.
For Freezing: I would recommend that the casserole be baked ahead of freezing because of all the dairy liquids in it. After baking, cover it with plastic wrap and foil and freeze.
For Baking after Freezing: Remove it from the freezer to the refrigerator 24-36 hours before reheating. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. For heating, remove the plastic wrap and replace the foil. Heat for 30 minutes covered and an additional 15 minutes uncovered so that the top will crisp up. Sprinkle with the scallions and serve.
Want to read more from The Spice Diva? Check out Spice – The Secret to Taste