On Palm Sunday we invited a few friends over for brunch. I knew I wanted an excuse to make muffins for the April edition of Is My Blog Burning? and it seems like we don't see our friends as often as we'd like since the Critic started a new job with marathon hours. So we sent out invitations and I started scouring recipe books for good muffin recipes and defrosting sausages. I didn't have to do any research to come up with an egg dish, because I have a fantastic recipe which came to me from my sister's in-laws: the O'Leary Family Christmas Egg Casserole.
Christmas? Well, the reason I know and love this dish is that it's a tradition in the O'Leary family to make it for Christmas breakfast. When I spend Christmas in the Chicago area, we usually have breakfast with my sister's family before going on to the main party. Not only is it delicious, but it's ideal for Christmas morning, in that you prepare it the night before and put it directly in a hot oven from the refrigerator: minimal work for a very busy morning!
Of course you could always have them for EASTER too...Happy Easter everyone!
O'Leary Family Egg Casserole
6 slices of white bread
4 cups milk
2 tsp mustard powder
2 tsp salt
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 lbs cooked sausage meat (preferably spicy)
You can crumble the sausage meat as you cook it, or - as I usually do - just cook the sausages and zap them in a food processor until they ressemble rough breadcrumbs. Beat the eggs well, add the milk, mustard powder and salt. Shred the bred in small pieces and add it with the cheese and drained sausage meat. Mix well and pour into a large greased casserole and refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight. Bake for an hour at 350f/180c. Let it rest a few minutes before serving.
This is the classic version and it's delicious. You really do need to let it rest, as it allows the egg to properly soak into the bread and give it a substantial texture. If you skip the resting period, the eggs become rubbery and the bread isn't integrated in the dish. The eggs are so good this way that I know of two egg-haters who nevertheless love the dish!
Variations on a theme
Of course this casserole is an ideal platform for creative tinkering. For my Palm Sunday brunch, I divided the eggs into two batches in order to make a vegetarian version. Instead of sausage, the second version had a cup of steamed spinach and a half cup of roast red pepper sauce drizzled over the top. As you can see in the photo, it was much prettier. It was also delicious!