This breakfast casserole is very similar to the Southern-style breakfast casseroles you’ve seen before, but I’ve managed to complicate it…JUST a bit. See, I like the results I get by shredding potatoes for hash browns myself rather than using the pre-shredded, frozen variety. Hash browns made this way retain a bit of their crunch during the baking process, and that texture is important to me. You can certainly use the frozen variety for simplicity (about half the bag, prepared according to package directions), but I’d advise you to remove as much of the moisture as possible before cooking them.
And then there’s the clarified butter…but it’s really easy to make (ahead of time!) and gives you optimal hash brown crunchiness. This is because the process of clarifying the butter removes the milk solids, thereby conferring a very high smoke point: you can even use it to sear meats. If you’re short on time, you can always substitute store-bought ghee (you can usually find it in the ethnic foods aisle at your grocery).
A make-ahead breakfast casserole
This breakfast casserole can be made the night before, which is ideal for holiday brunches. In my family, casserole has made starring appearances for Mother’s Day brunch and Christmas Morning breakfast. It has traveled to a cabin in Northern Wisconsin for a fantastic, hearty breakfast during the Frank Family Vacation: in this case, I did everything except mix up the eggs before we traveled. It’s also a wonderful work-ahead solution for busy mornings.
Now, a caveat: if your kids are picky eaters, they will likely not be fans of the red bell pepper (i.e., visible vegetable) in the casserole. By all means, leave it out if it helps your cause. Of our three kids, two will happily attack the breakfast casserole—bell pepper and all—and one won’t touch it even if the peppers are left out. This is our “every family has a kid who won’t eat” child (think of the meatloaf and mashed potatoes scene from Christmas Story), so I’m not too worried that he’s not a fan.
My mom is a good ol’ Southern girl, and she absolutely loves this breakfast casserole. So THAT tells me that this recipe is a keeper.
Breakfast Casserole with Sausage, Peppers, Onions, & Potatoes
- 1 lb. mild Italian pork sausage
- 1 lb. spicy Italian pork sausage
- 3 russet potatoes - peeled and shredded
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt - divided
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs
- 1 red bell pepper - sliced
- 1 Vidalia onion - sliced
- 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
- 6 large eggs
- 2 cups milk
- 1 stick - 1/2 cup butter
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- cooking spray for greasing the casserole dish
For the clarified butter
- Melt the butter over medium-low heat. Use a spoon to carefully skim off the foam that forms on top (don’t worry if you can’t get it all).
- Pour the butter (the yellow part: stop when you get to the milky-colored solids at the bottom) into a heat-safe bowl through a wire-mesh strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth, a paper towel, or a coffee filter. Cool slightly before use.
For the hash browns
- Soak the shredded potatoes in a good amount of cold water. Mix around until the water is cloudy. Drain and rinse the potatoes in a colander under cold, running water.
- Pour the shredded potatoes onto a sackcloth (or lint-free kitchen towel). Squeeze like crazy to get as much moisture out of the potatoes as you can. Loosen the towel and rearrange the potatoes on the cloth. Wring them out again.
- In a heavy-bottomed non-stick or cast-iron skillet, heat 4 tbsp. of the clarified butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. (You don’t have to worry about the butter smoking or scorching because you’ve removed the smoky/scorchy milk solids.)
- Spread the potatoes over the bottom of the skillet; sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. of the salt and a few grinds of black pepper (about 1/2 tsp). Allow to cook, undisturbed, until a golden-brown crust forms on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Working in sections, use a silicone spatula to flip the potatoes. Add more clarified butter if the potatoes are sticking or if the pan is too dry. Continue cooking, stirring if necessary, until potatoes are uniformly golden-brown, another 5-8 minutes.
For the final casserole
- Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring to crumble the sausage. Cook until the fat renders and the sausage is no longer pink. Drain well.
- Wipe out the skillet and add the olive oil. Add the peppers and onions; cook over medium-high heat until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Mix the hash browns, sausage, pepper and onion mix, and cheese.
- Lightly coat a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray and add the mixture.
- Whisk together eggs, milk, herbs, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Pour evenly over the sausage mixture. Bake at 350° for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the eggs are set and no longer jiggly. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve. Enjoy!
You can cook the sausage, hash browns, and vegetables the night before: add the mix to your prepared baking dish (step #12); cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, remove the covering and pick up at step #13.
|Confessions of a Former Skipper: I used to skip breakfast on a regular basis because I felt like I just didn’t have the time to deal with it on busy mornings. These are the strategies I’ve learned over the years to deliver breakfast at even the busiest of times. Plus: brunch ideas making breakfast for a small crowd.|