If you are cooking breakfast for a crowd, you could rise a few hours earlier than anyone to make fresh buttermilk biscuits, gravy and an assortment of breakfast meats.
When people start to come to the table, you can become a short order chef and cook eggs to order.
If this does not sound like your idea of a good time, you are not alone.
For my money, nothing beats a good breakfast casserole when you are called upon to cook for a crowd.
What’s not to like? It can be put together the night before. It can have everyone’s favorite ingredients. It can be sweet or savory, and these casseroles can be enjoyed either hot or at room temperature, in case your guests arrive at the breakfast table at different times.
While your guests are enjoying their first cup of coffee, the dish you assembled the night before, is popped into the oven and in 45 minutes to an hour breakfast is served.
There are literally thousands of recipes for breakfast casseroles, but far and away the most common and popular are egg-based casseroles. These casseroles follow a simple formula.
Begin by choosing a starch. For a savory casserole consider bread, croissants, tortillas, potatoes or grits. For a sweet casserole consider, cake donuts, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, waffles or raisin bread. These suggestions are by no means exhaustive.
To mix with the eggs, you need to choose a dairy. This commonly is milk, half and half, heavy cream, cream cheese, and/or sour cream. The dairy and the eggs combine to form the custard that helps to hold the casserole together.
A savory casserole would not be complete without cheese.
My favorite cheeses for a breakfast casserole are either cheddar or Monterey jack. You could also use Swiss, gouda or brie. Mascarpone is a great cheese selection for your sweet casserole.
In my opinion, meats are a necessary ingredient for savory casseroles and, in some cases, certain meats work well with sweet casseroles. I like to use bacon, sausage, chorizo, or ham.
It is important that these meats be fully cooked before assembling the casserole. Bacon and sausage also pair well with a sweet casserole if you have selected to go with waffles and pancakes as your choice of starch or if you are going for a French toast vibe.
If you are so inclined, meat can be eliminated entirely. Casseroles can include onions, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes and broccoli. Sweet casseroles can sometimes benefit from the addition of dried fruit and various nuts like pecans or walnuts.
By way of example, let me describe preparing one of my favorite breakfast casseroles. Begin by spraying a 9” x 13” x 2” baking pan with cooking spray. Take an 8 ounce can of crescent rolls, unroll the dough and press into the bottom of the pan and up the sides. It is important to seal the edges of the dough.
Sprinkle about ¾ pound of diced ham, a couple of chopped green onions and two cups of cheddar cheese in the bottom of the baking pan.
Mix six eggs that have been lightly beaten with ½ cup of milk or cream, two tablespoons of room temperature cream cheese, two tablespoons of sour cream, a teaspoon each of hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce and some salt and pepper. Pour this mixture over the ham. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
An hour before you are ready to serve, heat your oven to 350 degrees and bake the casserole for about 50 minutes. It is done when you see that the sides have started to brown, and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 15 minutes before cutting to serve.
Serve this with a big mess of hashbrowns and some fresh fruit.
This is a very basic preparation. Feel free to substitute the ham for any of the other meats listed earlier. You can swap the cheddar cheese for any cheese or combination of cheeses that you might like. Change the crescent rolls for sourdough bread or frozen shredded potatoes or tater tots.
Using this basic custard mixture, the sky is the limit for the other ingredients you may want to use.
I love the casseroles at any time. They make a great light lunch or serve this breakfast for dinner.
Dennis Patillo is a committed foodie and chef. He has spent a lifetime studying foods from around the world as well as regional cuisines. His passion is introducing people to ingredients and techniques that can be used in their home kitchen. He and his wife, Louise, own The PumpHouse Riverside Restaurant and Bar.