Easy breakfast casseroles are big time-savers
Breakfast casserole dishes, also called stratas, are culinary wonders, especially around the holidays. They’re layered with ingredients, require little prep work and are time-savers. They also are a set-it-and-forget-it type of dish.
Most feed a lot of people, so they’re perfect for serving out-of-town guests. The casserole is assembled the night before, refrigerated and then popped in the oven in the morning.
Breakfast casseroles are everything you might eat at breakfast cooked together in one dish. Eggs get mixed with a liquid (milk or cream) to make a custardlike base. Cooked meats such as ham, bacon or sausage are added. Most recipes call for shredded cheese. You can add vegetables such as onions and peppers. And, of course, there’s the bread base made from dry (never soft) bread.
Though there are no hard-and-fast rules for these types of casseroles, here are some basic guidelines.
Bread: Use plain sandwich bread, sweet challah, leftover rolls, croutons or anything you have on hand. Cut bread into cubes or leave in slices. Figure a good 6 cups of bread cubes if you’re using a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Make sure the bread is several days old and dry. If necessary, dry it in a 300-degree oven for 30 minutes.
Cheese and add-ins: Use shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, fontina or fontinella. Cheese blends such as Italian or Mexican also work well, or you can use some Parmesan or Gruyere. The amount of cheese you include, according to epicurious.com, is about half the amount of bread you used. If you used 4 cups of bread cubes, use 2 cups of cheese. Add-ins include cooked sausage and bacon, sauteed ham and vegetables such as peppers, onions, spinach and kale.
Eggs and milk: Epicurious.com recommends using equal parts eggs and milk. These, along with the bread, help bind the casserole together. The combination of eggs and milk should equal or come close to the amount of bread you use. If you use 4 cups of cubed bread, use 2 cups of milk and 2 cups of egg, then add in seasonings, herbs or ingredients such as hot sauce and Dijon mustard.
Assemble: Butter a baking dish and scatter or layer the bread in the dish. Scatter cooked meat and vegetables over the bread. Sprinkle with all but about 1/2 cup of the cheese. Pour the milk-egg mixture over the bread. Press down slightly on the mixture so all the bread gets some moisture. It’s OK if some bread is exposed at the top. Sprinkle with reserved cheese. Cover with foil and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
Bake: Remove casserole from refrigerator, keep covered with foil and bake in a preheated 350- to 375-degree oven about 20 minutes. Then remove the foil and continue baking until casserole is puffed and lightly brown and the center is set and doesn’t jiggle. Or bake according to the recipe. Let sit
10 minutes before serving.
Overnight Croissant Breakfast Casserole
The original recipe called for country ham, but you can use whatever ham you have. Country ham is dry-cured with salt and seasonings and smoked. It’s then aged for months and even a year or more. By comparison, city ham is cured and smoked. You can think of country ham like prosciutto or serrano ham. It’s salty and somewhat chewy.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes, plus overnight chilling time
12 to 15 day-old mini croissants
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces diced ham
11/2 pounds sweet onions or other onions, chopped or sliced into 1-inch long pieces (about 4 cups)
5 ounces baby spinach, roughly chopped
6 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
6-8 ounces fontina cheese, shredded (about
2 cups), divided
Lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange croissants, slightly overlapping, in 2 rows.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the ham and saute until it’s lightly browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer ham to a large bowl. (If using country ham, reserving drippings in skillet.) Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet; stir in onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until deeply browned, about 20-30 minutes. Add the spinach; cook, stirring often, until wilted, 1 to
2 minutes. Transfer onion/spinach mixture to bowl with ham; let cool 10 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, mustard, salt and pepper. Add egg mixture and 11/2 cups of the cheese to bowl with onion mixture and stir to combine. Pour mixture over croissants. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and chill 8 hours or up to overnight.
When you’re ready to serve, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Uncover casserole and place on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown and center is set, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Cover with foil after 25 minutes, if necessary, to prevent excess browning.
Adapted from Southern Living
Magazine, December 2018 issue.
Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.