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10/07/2012

~ English Muffins, Sweet Sausage, Eggs & Cheese: My Super-Simple, Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole~

IMG_2753It's been said that I am not a morning person.  It's true.  When it comes to mornings, I don't mind being awake, showered and dressed by 8:00AM, but, I do mind being social, energetic and forced into productivity.  My ideal morning is to come downstairs, sit quietly with the newspaper and CNN on TV, sip a glass of iced-tea and come up with my game plan or organize my notes for the day ahead.  Around 10:00- 10:30-ish AM I turn into a very busy and very nice person, who often works very late into the night and into the wee hours of the next morning!

It is for people like me the breakfast casserole was invented!

IMG_2791Like most cooks, I have a few really good main-dish casserole recipes in my repertoire, because: casseroles are the quintessential comfort food.  From church suppers, to pot-lucks, to tailgates, etc., they seem to bring people together and make them feel better.  That being said, I don't come from a long line of "casserole eaters".  In fact, I don't remember my mother ever serving a casserole, EVER. Generally speaking, I honestly don't find casseroles particularly creative, exciting or inventive either.  I do find them good-tasting, and, more importantly: functional.  This is one such recipe.  It is very good tasting and very functional.  It gets put together the night before and when you wake up, all you have to do is bake, serve and eat!

Where did I get this recipe?  Good Question.

Images Images-1I'm not sure.  It could have been a recipe I clipped out of a newspaper or a magazine, or, it could have appeared on a package of sausage. McDonald's had introduced the Egg McMuffin to its national menu in 1975 and I'm convinced this casserole had to be a spin-off from it, because versions of this casserole (made with bacon, Canadian bacon, or sausage) started appearing everywhere.  What I do remember is:  I began serving it in the early 1980's on cold mornings, outdoors at Beaver Stadium, for Penn State tailgates. Everyone loved it... particularly the menfolk.  BTW, it pairs great with Bloody Mary's!

What's not to love about an Egg McMuffin that feeds twelve!

IMG_2659~ Step 1.  Spray a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole with no-stick spray.

~ Step 2.  Split & cut into 3/4" cubes:

1,  12-ounce package English muffins, preferably Thomas'

placing them in the casserole as you work.

IMG_2668~ Step 3.  Melt:

4 ounces salted butter (1 stick)

in the microwave and slowly drizzle it evenly over the top of the muffin cubes.

IMG_2677~ Step 4.  Finely grate:

4 cups yellow cheddar cheese (1 pound)

Sprinkle 2 cups over the muffin cubes and set the remaining 2 cups of grated cheese aside.

Note:  I used store-bought, pre-grated cheese.  This is supposed to be super-simple!

IMG_0612A bit about the sausage:  I like to use:

12, 2-ounce, 2 1/2"-round mini, mild-flavored sausage patties

Why?  Because everyone loves getting an entire sausage pattie in their portion.  If you can't find something similar, substitute 1 1/2 pounds of uncooked bulk sausage!

IMG_2686~ Step 5.  Fry the sausage patties (or bulk sausage) until light golden brown on both sides, turning only once.  Timing will vary, depending on whether they are thawed, or frozen (like mine are today).

Note:  I do not fry my sausage patties until they are fully-cooked, or much worse, to the hockey-puck stage.  They can and will finish cooking as the casserole bakes!

IMG_2688 IMG_2693                                    ~ Step 6. Arrange the sausage patties on the top of the grated cheese, then, top the sausage with the remaining two cups of grated cheese.

The next step is optional:

IMG_2703~ Step 7.  If you'd like to add some "heat" drain:

1, 7 1/2-ounce jar, sliced, green, pickled jalapeno peppers

Scatter or well-place them on top of the casserole.  Another option is to dice them up and sprinkle them on!

IMG_2708~ Step 8.  In a 2-quart measuring container, whisk together:

2  cups milk

12  large eggs, at room temperature

1/2  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon black pepper

IMG_2713

 

~ Step 9.  Slowly drizzle the egg/milk mixture evenly over the surface of the entire casserole, working in north to south and east to west directions as you drizzle, which will give the mixture plenty of time to drizzle down through all the nooks and crannies.  Cover and refrigerate 4-8 hours or overnight:

IMG_2719

 

~ Step 10.  Remove casserole from refrigerator 2 hours prior to baking, uncovered, on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the center is puffy and set.  Allow to rest, 15-30 minutes prior to slicing and serving:

IMG_2730English Muffins, Sweet Sausage, Eggs & Cheese:  My Super-Simple, Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole:  Recipe yields 12 servings (each with its own sausage pattie hidden inside).

Special Equipment List:  13" x 9" x 2" casserole dish; cutting board; serrated bread knife; 1-cup measuring container; cheese grater (optional); 12" skillet, preferably nonstick; nonstick spatula; 2-quart measuring container; whisk; plastic wrap

Thomas_logoCook's Note:  Thomas' English muffins are the ones we Americans love for their "nooks and crannies" that toast up crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.  How they do it is a closely-guarded secret and they've gone to court over it too. However they do it, they've earned their place on my table!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)

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