Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Maple Sausage Breakfast Bake

What are your plans for Christmas morning?

We normally attend the midnight Christmas Mass.  It's beautiful and exciting to be out in the wee mornings of the hour, rushing through the cold and wet to witness the celebration of the nativity just like the shepherds did on that holy night over two thousand years ago.  When we return home, we have a snack of wassail and Christmas cookies and then head to bed.  As soon as the child awakens in the morning, we open presents under the tree and then sit down to a delicious breakfast of coffee cake, eggnog, fresh cut pineapple, and some sort of egg bake.  We are really looking forward to it!

In the meantime, every evening we get to watch Matthew desperately huff and puff in an attempt to blow out the candles on our Advent wreath.  These pictures make me giggle each time because, despite all that effort, he could not manage to blow that candle out.  Paul secretly had to give the little guy a little assistance.

If you do not have a menu picked out for Christmas morning, I have an unusual and delicious recipe suggestion.  Paul has always talked about his love of eating pancakes topped with eggs and sausage with maple syrup poured over the whole concoction.  It sounded rather strange to me, but apparently he is not the only person who thinks this is a fantastic flavor combination.  When I came across an article written by the editor of Cook's Illustrated about easy entertaining, the featured recipe for an breezy company brunch was a casserole consisting of frozen waffles, maple sausage, cheddar cheese, soaked overnight in an egg custard and baked in the morning.  It sounded interesting enough to try.

We enjoyed this for the Feast of Saint Lucia.  Despite its humble appearance, this really was a memorable breakfast. It completely converted me to the idea of eating sausage with waffles/pancakes.  I think Paul ate half the casserole by himself.  It's really not very sweet, but the maple flavor is certainly prominent.  I'm sure this would be a welcome addition to any holiday brunch!

Maple Sausage Breakfast Bake
adapted from Cook's Country

6-8 frozen waffles (They recommend Eggo Homestyle Waffles)
12 ounces maple breakfast sausage (We used two packages of Banquet maple sausage)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
6 large eggs
1 1/4 cups whole or low-fat milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375ºF. Arrange the waffles in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until crisp, about 10 minutes per side.

Brown the sausage in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Drain on paper towels and, once cool enough to handle, slice crosswise into rounds.

Butter an 8-inch square baking dish. Add half of the waffles in a single layer. Add half of the sausage and 1/2 cup of the cheese. Repeat layering the waffles, sausage, and 1/2 cup more cheese. Whisk the eggs, milk, maple syrup, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl until combined. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the casserole. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and place weights on top (a couple cans of chicken broth worked for us!). Refrigerate the casserole for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325ºF. Let the casserole stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. Uncover the casserole and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup the cheese over the top. Bake until the edges and center are puffed, about 45-50 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes. Cut into pieces and serve.

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