It sounded good on paper.
Needing to bring something extra to the monthly United Methodist Men’s Breakfast, I opted to supplement my usual 4 pounds of baked and pan fried potatoes with a casserole of some sort. Realize, of course, that the good casserole ideas were already taken, i.e. the French toast strata that the same guy has been bringing for decades. Caveat: his wife actually cooks it; he just brings it. But he gets credit. Oh well; what can you do?
I had to think of something else.
In the course of writing my culinary-themed cozy mystery (currently in second edits,) I found I could save time by using a little known research tool called…the Internet. Maybe you have heard of it. After a few minutes of searching, I discovered a very tasty sounding breakfast casserole that included sausage and cinnamon-apples. Note to self: use this one next time. Anyway, I took the idea and changed it up. Instead of wheat bread, I would use frozen hash browns. Instead of cinnamon-apples, I would use…well, just the sausage by itself. It was a simple recipe, really. Just put the hash browns straight from the bag into the casserole dish, then stir in cooked sausage, top with an egg / milk mixture and finally some shredded cheese.
It sounded so good in my mind.
Flash forward three hours. The breakfast is over, leftovers have been sent out to those who were home-bound due to illness or the bad weather (one man met the food delivery with a knife and fork, plus a five dollar bill for the kitty.) What was the fate of my breakfast casserole?
Most of it had been devoured. However, with this bunch that is not surprising.
The hash brown casserole was okay. Not great, not worthy of a repeat performance. Just okay. The 2 main issues I had with it were the potatoes lacked seasoning and even though they baked in the oven for an hour, the little strips of potato just were not done. At least not done enough. This meant I needed to do something different. A “Plan B” as it were.
For your culinary pleasure: D.J.’s Plan B Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1 bag of frozen hash brown potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 pounds of sausage (I used Jimmy Dean brand – maple infused sausage)
2 cups of milk
4 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese (or Cheddar, if you like)
– Bake the hash brown potatoes according to the directions on the package. There are a few ways to cook them; choose whatever works for you. Bottom line – cook/bake them before you start to assemble the casserole. Don’t forget to add salt and cracked black pepper, stirring in. How much? I would use what you think is right, then add some more.
– While the hash browns are in the oven, get out a large skillet and fully cook the sausage. As it cooks, you want to shred the sausage into little nugget sized hunks. Think browning meat for a spaghetti sauce. This isn’t scientific, just make sure you do not have sausage chunks too big for a normal bite.
– As the hash browns are finishing their time in the oven, and the sausage is now resting, take out a medium sized bowl and mix together the eggs and the milk.
Putting it all together
– Take the baked hash browns and put them in a standard, 9 inch by 13 inch casserole dish.
– Fold in the cooked sausage.
– Pour the milk / egg mixture evenly over the casserole.
– Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top.
– Bake in the preheated oven for one hour. At the 30 minute point, you may want to check and see if the top is starting to brown. If it looks like your casserole is progressing from “brown” to “burned'” cover with some foil and bake for the remaining half hour.
Once the hour is up, let rest for a few minutes then dig in and eat!
Sounds good, yes?
But wait – there’s more.
What to do with leftovers – for the person cooking for one or two.
You can always refrigerate any leftovers. Then, when the urge strikes – put a few scoops of the hash brown casserole into a hot frying pan of butter. Now the hash browns will have been baked, baked again, and now fried with butter. Paula Deen would be so proud. Not sure about my doctor, though.
Sure, this is Plan B recipe is a variation on a common breakfast casserole theme, but hey – it works. Next time, it’s the French Toast Strata expedition. Maybe I should talk to my wife about that…