I first had breakfast casserole in 1980, when my great-grandmother died. It’s hard to believe that it was three decades ago. I’d love to know more about the bigger history of this dish, but for now I’m content with the family history. Dear family friends brought the casserole to the house, and it became an instant classic. Two things–okay, maybe three–make it good. First, you can make it ahead and save only the baking for when you serve it. Second, it has all of your country breakfast basics–bread, eggs, and meat–with nothing processed, like I see in some other breakfast casserole recipes. Third, it holds well for seconds and thirds. It’s even pretty darn good on day two, if there’s any left after the initial breakfast.
Here’s my basic recipe, designed for a large casserole dish, up to 9×13 (smaller dishes okay if they are deeper):
serves 6-10, depending on how hungry they are!
- 6 slices of whole-grain bread, torn into bits
- 10 eggs
- 1 cup milk or cream
- 1 pound turkey sausage (yes, you can use pork sausage)
- optional: 2 teaspoons each rubbed sage and crushed red pepper (this will include bits of the red flesh part and the seed, but the name will vary)
- 1-2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
Begin by browning the sausage, breaking it up as you go. If it’s standard commercial sausage, you may want to add about 2 teaspoons rubbed sage and 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper (0r more!). If it is pork sausage, be sure to drain it well. Now grease your casserole dish. Put the torn bread in the bottom of the pan, spreading it out evenly. Next evenly sprinkle on your well-seasoned sausage. Then spread evenly the grated cheddar cheese. Finally, beat the eggs and milk together, and pour the mixture over the rest of the casserole. That’s it. You can now refrigerate the dish. In the morning, put the casserole dish in the oven first and then set the oven to 375 degrees F. (By adding the casserole to the cold oven, you’ll reduce the chances of breaking your casserole dish, which could happen if you put a cold dish in a hot oven.) Bake the dish for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the shape of your dish. The breakfast casserole should be set thoroughly, and the top should be nicely browned. To serve, you can either cut the casserole into slices, or just let your guests scoop it out themselves.
You can also pre-bake and freeze the casserole, but it’s not quite as good as baking it the morning you eat it.
By the way, I’ve also made *three* breakfast casseroles in large outdoor Dutch ovens to feed a crowd on a camp out. This recipe is that versatile! I just pre-browned the meat and pre-grated the cheese and froze both. Two kids who were early risers broke and “beat” the eggs in large zippered bags while I tore the bread. Follow the directions as above, add coals, and in a little less than an hour you’ll have breakfast for two dozen people!