Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Favorite

Published in The Sanford Herald November 14, 2012

I have a bizarre favorite food.  While the conventional contenders of chocolate, macaroni and cheese, and a good medium-rare steak are all appealing to me, there is one thing that I crave in all its delicious forms: eggs.  I don’t call them the “incredible, edible egg” because I am confounded that anyone would find an egg to not be incredible, or edible, for that matter.  My egg obsession leads to many a supper of scrambled eggs with peppers, onions and cheese rolled into charred corn tortillas (we Texans call those “taquitos”).  A frittata of eggs, potatoes and thyme is fit to share with royalty.  To be honest, eggs are part of the reason I adore my weekly breakfast meeting with fellow clergy at Cracker Barrel in Sanford.   (Not to diminish the joy of a bunch of clergyfolk lovingly poking fun at each other on a regular basis.)

Though I adore all forms of eggs, my mother’s breakfast casserole outshines them all to become My Favorite Food of All Time.  I’ve had this casserole at countless family gatherings, such as the morning after Thanksgiving when you suddenly realize that you are somehow hungry again.  When I was moving to Northern Ireland to be a mission worker, my brunch send-off included this dish of perfection.  It conjures up memories of flannel pajamas and fragrant coffee, laughing nieces and animated storytelling.  Plus, there is the seemingly magical event that happens when you make it, as four measly eggs feed at least ten people.  It’s nearly akin to the loaves and fishes story in the Bible.  

In essence, this breakfast casserole is “family” in a soul-filling, hearty dish.  That is why it wins the honor of being my absolute favorite.  I’m hoping it becomes a favorite of your family and friends as well.

Favorite Breakfast Casserole
Serves 10-12, unless I’m dining with you.  In that case, it will serve far less.

2 ¼ c. seasoned croutons
1 ½ lb spicy pork sausage, removed from casing
4 eggs
2 ¼ c. milk (preferably whole milk)
1 (10.75 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
1 (4 oz.) can sliced mushrooms, drained
¾ t. dry mustard
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
¼ c. fresh chopped parsley, for garnish (if desired)

Spread croutons in a lightly greased 9 x 13 inch baking dish; set aside.  Cook sausage on medium high heat in a large skillet, stirring to crumble, until crisp and cooked through.  Drain well on paper towels. Prepare thyself for the glorious smell of sausage wafting through the house.  Stave off hungry hoards.  Sprinkle sausage over croutons.   In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and milk until well blended.  Stir in soup, mushrooms, and mustard.  Pour egg mixture over sausage and croutons and cover.  Refrigerate at least 5 hours or overnight.  Remove from refrigerator; let stand for 30 minutes.  Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes.  Sprinkle cheese on top.  Bake, uncovered, an additional 5 minutes, until cheese melts.  Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.  If possible, show enough restraint to place it on a plate before devouring.

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