When pal Sari suggested getting together with her and Jeff, My Beloved and I jumped at the chance to catch up with their news, to hear all about their trip to Croatia, and to show off our new kitchen. How about brunch?
Jeff was openly envious of my wonderful new stove and Sari was pleasingly impressed with our luxurious new bathroom, so we felt happily smug about the improvements. Truth be told, we are so pleased with them, ourselves, that we don't really need others to praise, but it does feel nice, worth all the trouble we went to.
And both of them enjoyed my brunch casserole. I found the basic idea on epicurious.com, but changed everything except the cheese, so it turned out quite differently. This version had lots of baby bella mushrooms, spicy Italian sausage, and extra sharp cheddar cheese and, if I do say so myself, I think it was a nice improvement. Each bite had the funk of mushrooms, the heat of spice, and the richness of eggs, plus a little herbal lift from the herby Acme herb slab bread that I used for the foundation.
It baked up beautifully, puffed and glorious, and was perfect alongside a plain salad of butter lettuce leaves with a balsamic vinaigrette. Best of all, it could be made the day ahead so we had time to show off the house as well as catch up with their news.
Doctored Brunch Casserole
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
1 pound of spicy Italian sausage, either bulk or links, but crumbled, cooked, and drained of extra fat.
8 slices of herb slab bread (or other white bread - or any bread you like), cut into cubes
About a dozen baby bella mushrooms, sliced and sautéed.
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups milk (do not use low fat or nonfat)
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish. Place bread in prepared dish. Top with cooked sausage, shredded cheese and sautéed mushrooms. Beat together eggs, milk, mustard, and salt. Season with pepper, then pour egg mixture over the sausage, mushrooms, cheese, and bread.
Bake until casserole is puffed and golden, and the center is set, about 50 minutes. Cut into serving size pieces and serve with a green salad.
Can be made the day ahead, refrigerated, then baked for a few minutes longer if baked cold.