Here on the West Coast we have the pleasure of watching college football at 9 AM. And while we try to be on our very best behavior the Friday night before (in order to actually make it out of bed) sometimes, just sometimes, the fire pit encourages a little bit of bad behavior. In case somebody happens to go a little overboard — not me, of course — I’m always there to greet them with a morning cocktail, i.e. the old hair of the dog. Irish Coffee (a.k.a. “Ire Coff’s”), Bloody Mary’s, and Mimosas are always in the pre-game lineup. But with all this booze before noon, I’ve gotta serve something to soak it all up with.
This sausage breakfast casserole is just the ticket. It’s easy, hearty, and stick-to-your ribs filling. And it can feed the army of vagabonds who pass in and out of our little Oxford house. When I was growing up, some variation of this casserole could often be found on our weekend table. My mother used to serve it whenever we had company, or if I invited a group of hungry teenage boys over (this one’s for you, Drew Clevenger). It has never failed to please.
The beauty of this casserole is that it is a blank canvas — if you don’t like sausage, use bacon; don’t eat meat? Fill it with veggies. Experiment with different breads and different flavor profiles: Mexican (black beans and salsa), Italian (tomatoes and mozzarella), French (lots of fresh herbs). The possibilities are endless!
SPICY SAUSAGE & CHEDDAR BREAKFAST CASSEROLE
Source: Nealey Dozier
Yields: 10 – 12 servings
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 (16 ounce) loaf Italian bread, cubed
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 pounds bulk spicy breakfast sausage (I like Jimmy Dean)
1 (16 ounce) bag shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Sour cream, to serve
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish.
In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, and eggs. Add the bread cubes to the egg mixture and toss to combine, making sure every piece is saturated. Set aside.
In a large skillet or braiser, heat a few glugs of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the sausage and continue to heat, stirring occasionally, until it is cooked through. Drain sausage, if desired. Remove from the heat and season generously with salt, pepper, and cayenne.
Toss the sausage and cheddar cheese with the bread mixture until thoroughly combined. Pour into the casserole dish and allow to sit for 45 minutes to an hour, or overnight. Cook until the top is golden brown and set, about 45 minutes. Serve warm, with sour cream.