Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole

IMG_0396Just tried this out today.   It’s a recipe from Cook’s Country, one of my favorite magazines for home country comfort food.   It was fabulous and very easy to make.    You can make it the day ahead and it makes a ton of food for a group of people.   I was looking for a recipe like this + we enjoyed the crispy crust on the outside.    The inside had a nice custard center.   I will have to try the variations.    It’s probably key to allow it to soak overnight.    I didn’t have any problem with it overcooking in the oven.   It went for the full hour.

Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole

Ingredients
1 (14-inch) loaf Italian bread, ends trimmed
1 pound bulk pork sausage
1 small onion, chopped fine
3 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
12 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups whole milk
1 ½ teaspoons table salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon hot sauce (Frank’s Red Hot)

Directions
1. Toast Bread.   Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and hear oven to 400 degrees.  Slice bread in half lengthwise, then slice each half crosswise into ½ inch-thick pieces.   Spread bread in single layers on 2 rimmed baking sheets and bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes, flipping bread and switching and rotating sheets halfway through.    Let cool 15 minutes.   NOTE:  Watch over the bread carefully to prevent burning.    My oven is hotter than normal so I didn’t use the entire time period.   I pulled the bread out when it was golden…near 13-14 minutes.    Also in my oven the top rack was much hotter and cooked quicker.

2. Brown Sausage.     Cook sausage in large skillet over medium heat until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.   Add onion and cook until golden, about 5 minutes

3. Assemble Casserole.     Grease 13-by-9 inch baking dish.  Shingle half of bread in prepared pan so that edges overlap slightly.   Top with half of sausage mixture and 1 cup cheese.   Repeat with remaining bread, remaining sausage mixture, and remaining cheese.

IMG_03944. Soak and Weight.    Whisk eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and hot sauce in large bowl.   Pour evenly over casserole.   Wrap casserole with plastic and weight to let the bread soak up the egg mixture.   What I used was another casserole pan with assorted food cans to give it more weight.    Refrigerate for at least 1 hr and up to 24.    I suggest doing this overnight.   I assembled it in the evening then cooked it the next morning.

5. Bake Casserole.   Adjust oven rack to middle position and hear oven to 350 degrees.   Let casserole stand at room temperature while oven is heating.   Remove weights, unwrap casserole, and bake until the edges and center have puffed and top is golden brown, about 1 hour.   Let cool 10 minutes.   Serve.

Variations
Chorizo and Pepper Jack – Replace pork sausage with 1 pd chorizo sausage – halved lengthwise and sliced thin, and cheddar with 3 cups shredded pepper jack cheese.   In step 2, add ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro to sausage mixture once it has been removed from heat
-or-
Italian Sausage and Fontina – Replace pork sausage with 1 pound hot or sweet Italian sausage, casings removed, and cheddar with 3 cups shredded fontina cheese.   In step 2, add ¼ cup chopped fresh basil to sausage mixture once it has been removed from heat.

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