Having a breakfast casserole ready to pop in the oven on Christmas morning is one of the best dishes a cook could have. The casseroles are a huge time saver, especially during the holidays or if you have overnight guests. They are ideal because you can feed a crowd and can have breakfast favorites covered.
Breakfast casseroles are everything you might eat at breakfast all tossed together and cooked in one dish. The casserole is assembled the night before and sits in the refrigerator overnight allowing the dry bread to soak up the liquid. The next day pop it in the oven and bake until puffy and set.
Though there are no hard-and-fast rules for these types of casseroles, here are some basic guidelines.
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Choose your bread
Use plain sandwich bread, sweet challah, leftover rolls, croissants, 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.
Choose your add-ins
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, sautéed ham and vegetables like peppers and onions, and sauteeed spinach and kale.
Eggs and milk
Most recipes use 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.
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 ½ 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 okay if some bread is exposed at the top. Sprinkle with reserved cheese. Cover with foil and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Bake: Remove casserole from the refrigerator, keep covered with foil and bake in a preheated 350- to 375-degree oven for about 20 minutes. Then remove the foil and continue baking until the 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.
Contact Detroit Free Press food writer Susan Selasky and send food and restaurant news to: 313-222-6872 or [email protected]. Follow @SusanMariecooks on Twitter.
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Strata with Sausage, Cheese and Herbs
Serves: 12 (generously) / Preparation time: 20 minutes / Total time: 1 hour
You can use turkey sausage or mild or hot Italian sausage in this recipe. Or you can use frozen vegetarian crumbles.
20 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed if in links
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, chopped into ½-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned, sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, optional
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
16 ounces egg bread or country bread (preferably 1 to 2 days old), cut into ½-inch-thick slices
2½ cups shredded Fontina or Swiss cheese
Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish.
In a large skillet over medium heat, break up sausage and sauté until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside on paper towels to drain. Add the 1 tablespoon butter to the same skillet and melt. Add the onions, mushrooms and bell pepper and sauté until they are tender. Remove from the heat and cool.
In a medium bowl, whisk the thyme if using with the cream, half-and-half, eggs, salt and pepper, and set aside.
Lay half of the bread in the buttered baking dish, sprinkle with half of the sausage mixture, half of the mushroom mixture and about half of the cheese. Repeat layering with remaining bread, sausage, mushroom and cheese. Slowly pour egg mixture over top. Press down on the bread so it gets covered with the egg mixture. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the strata from the refrigerator while the oven is preheating. Uncover and place the baking dish on a baking sheet to catch overflow. Bake 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven. Allow to sit 10 minutes before serving.
From and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
438 calories (61% from fat), 30 grams fat (14 grams sat. fat), 23 grams carbohydrates, 21 grams protein, 929 mg sodium, 269 mg cholesterol, 214 mg calcium, 1 gram fiber.
Overnight French Toast
Serves: 6 / Preparation time: 15 minutes (plus overnight setting time) / Total time: 50 minutes
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
12 French bread slices (3/4-inch-thick)
1½ cups 2% milk
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups maple syrup
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted
To make the French toast: Spread a thick layer of butter over the bottom of heavy large baking pan with 1-inch-high sides. Arrange bread slices in pan. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, milk, sugar, syrup, vanilla and salt. Pour mixture over bread. Turn bread slices to coat. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap. Using a spatula, transfer bread slices to buttered baking sheets; discard any remaining liquid. Bake 10 minutes. Turn bread over and continue baking until just golden, about 5-8 minutes longer.
Meanwhile, prepare the syrup. In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the maple syrup and walnuts. Bring to simmer and keep the syrup hot.
Transfer cooked toast to plates and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately, passing Maple-Pecan Syrup separately.
Adapted from epicurious.com
Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
548 calories (36% from fat), 22 grams fat (8 grams sat. fat), 73 grams carbohydrates, 15 grams protein, 621 mg sodium, 231 mg cholesterol, 3 grams fiber.
Mushroom and Cheddar Breakfast Casserole
Serves: 12 / Preparation time: 30 minutes / Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes (plus overnight setting time)
Vegetable oil cooking spray
5 large eggs
4 large egg whites
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated skim milk
¾ cup skim milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon favorite hot red pepper sauce (such as Frank’s RedHot)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
8 (1 ounce) slices sturdy white bread, cubed
1 package (7 ounces) reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, shredded or grated
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
½ cup diced onion
½ cup diced green pepper
The night before serving, coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, evaporated milk, skim milk, dry mustard, hot sauce, black pepper and salt; set aside. Distribute half the bread cubes, half the shredded cheese, half the mushrooms, onion and green pepper in the prepared pan. Repeat layering using the remaining ingredients. Pour egg mixture evenly over casserole. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to bake, remove the casserole from the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the casserole, uncovered, for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until eggs are set and the casserole has puffed up. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before slicing. Serve with a side salad if desired.
Created by Jamie Ray, dietetic intern, Henry Ford Health System, and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen at the Great Lakes Culinary Center in Southfield.
174 calories (31% from fat), 6 grams fat (3 grams sat. fat, 0 grams trans fat), 16 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams protein, 370 mg sodium, 90 mg cholesterol, 274 mg calcium, 1 gram fiber. Food exchanges: 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 2 lean meats.