I have, for many years, been searching and experimenting with recipes for a make -ahead breakfast casserole that is all egg. The classic breakfast casserole around here is sausage, cheese and bread bound with an egg and milk custard, and I have made many variations of that. But I wanted something that didn’t include bread or other elements, because so often, a brunch spread includes them in other forms. Okay, for the big holidays, indulgence is the norm – I have been known to serve a plate of bacon and a sausage casserole, cheesy grits, biscuits and muffins – but that is not always the way to go. It has been my goal to serve a simple, scrambled egg casserole alongside the bacon and ham and biscuits and preserves, not adding to the overload, just complimenting it. And most off all, I don’t want to be up early cracking eggs and cooking them to order.
This is the result of trial and error, combining the best bits of all sorts of community cookbook recipes. My version below is very simple, jazzed up only with a little sharp green onion and some chives, but the brilliance of this is its adaptability. Add ingredients that suit the rest of your brunch spread – a combination of other fresh herbs, some finely diced peppers or mushrooms, even a little bacon or ham.
Creamy Scrambled Egg Casserole
5 Tablespoons butter, divided
2 ½ Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 (8-ounce) bar cream cheese
2 green onions, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons finely chopped chives
salt and pepper to taste
Melt 2 Tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan. Stir in the flour until you have a smooth paste. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly, until smooth. Add the nutmeg and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thickened and smooth, about five minutes. Cut the cream cheese into small cubes and whisk it, bit by bit, into the sauce until it is smooth and melted. Remove from the heat.
Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk thoroughly, until the yolks are broken up and the eggs are well combined. Whisk in a dash of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Melt the remaining 3 Tablespoons of butter in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Pour in the eggs and cook gently to form large, soft curds. Do not “scramble” the eggs too much, just gently push the cooked egg aside to let the uncooked egg cover the bottom of the pan. When the eggs are almost cooked, but some uncooked liquid is left, remove the pan from the heat and pour the cream sauce over the top. Sprinkle over the chopped green onion and chives, then fold the sauce through the eggs. At this point, you can break up any large egg pieces to distribute evenly through the sauce. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
Spread the eggs into a well-greased 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Leave to cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 300° and cook the eggs just until heated through, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
Serves 6 – 8
It’s hard not to start cooking with Guinness around St. Patrick’s Day. It is a very versatile brew, lending itself to sweet and savory recipes. And as the old ads say, it makes you stronger! I love this simple glaze and think thick slices of Irish bacon are the perfect vehicle for it. Irish bacon is similar to Canadian bacon and more like ham than our “streaky” bacon, so a couple of slices makes for a nice change at dinner, or breakfast. I find it at natural food and upscale markets, but sliced Canadian bacon or thickly sliced ham will work as well.
Serve this sticky bacon with a large portion of Colcannon, which is traditionally served with a large pat of butter, but a drizzle of this glaze over the top is pretty good too. Or pair it with Champ, if cabbage is not your thing.
This recipe makes more glaze than you will need, but it will keep, cooled in an airtight jar, for a week or so and can be used to glaze grilled chicken, burgers or a meatloaf, so it’s nice to have around to extend the St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
Guinness Glazed Irish Bacon
1 (12-ounce) bottle Guinness stout
1 ¼ up light brown sugar
¼ cup honey
½ teaspoon English mustard powder
8 ounces sliced Irish bacon or Canadian bacon (about 8 slices)
Pour the Guinness into a high-sided saucepan and leave until the foam settles. Stir in the brown sugar, honey and mustard powder and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Watch carefully and stir frequently as this can easily boil over. Just when it hits the boil, reduce the heat to medium -low and cook, stirring often, until the glaze is reduced by half., about 20 – 25 minutes. Remove from the heat. It will thicken a little as it cools.
Cook the bacon slices in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until just beginning to brown, flip and brown the opposite side. Spoon about 1 Tablespoon of glaze over each slice and cook a few more minutes until the bacon is nicely glazed and syrupy. Serve immediately, with a little extra glaze spooned over if you like.
Guinness Glazed Irish Bacon and Colcannon
When I leaf through cookbooks, I mark recipes that look interesting with little post-it flags. I frequently go back through those marked pages when I am looking for ideas, and it is always interesting when I return to books to see what caught my attention at any particular moment. Recently, I was flipping through some old community cookbooks to pass the time and I came across a marker on a recipe for cottage cheese rolls. I can’t imagine what made me mark it, as I am neither a baker of rolls or a particular fan of cottage cheese. But as it happened, I had a container of cottage cheese in the fridge I had mistakenly bought instead of ricotta, so I decided this would be a good way to use it. And it was. These rolls are simple enough for a yeast-fearing girl like myself, but the cottage cheese makes these rolls light and delightfully tangy. The dough is wet so the finished rolls are moist and fluffy.
Cottage Cheese Dinner Rolls
2 packets active dry yeast
½ cup lukewarm water
16 ounces cottage cheese
¼ cup sugar
2 Teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, at room temperature
4 ½ – 5 cups all-purpose flour
Rinse the bowl of a stand mixer with warm water so the bowl is not cold. Pour the ½ cup lukewarm water over in the bowl and sprinkle the yeast over. Sprinkle in a little of the sugar and stir. Leave for about 5 minutes to proof.
Heat the cottage cheese in a small pan over medium-low heat just until it is lukewarm. Do not let it scorch or bubble. Add the cottage cheese to the yeast in the bowl, then add the rest of the sugar, the salt, baking soda and the eggs and 1 cup of flour and beat with the paddle attachment until combined. Add about 3 – 3 ½ cups of flour, a little at a time, just until you have a shaggy, wet dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Scrape the dough into a well – greased bowl, turn it over so the top is greased as well then cover and leave to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in volume.*
Remove the risen dough to a surface dusted with about ½ cup of flour. Knead the dough a few times in the flour to remove some of the stickiness. Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces with a floured knife or bench scraper. Lightly flour you hands and roll each portion into a ball. Place the balls close together in two greased 9-inch round pans. Cover the pans loosely with a towel and leave to rise for 30 – 40 minutes until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the rolls for 20 minutes until firm and golden on the top. Remove from the oven and cover loosely with a tea towel until ready to serve. I like to serve these warm from the oven with butter to spread inside, but you can brush the tops of the cooled rolls with melted butter, loosely cover with foil and reheat in a low oven for a few minutes, just to warm through.
Makes 24 rolls
*Here’s a tip I learned from a friend. The microwave is a warm, draft free place great for rising dough. Just leave a post-it not so no one turns it on. Even better, create a moist, warm dough habitat by putting a measuring cup with ½ cup of water in the microwave before the bowl of dough and zap for 2 minutes, until the inside is nice and steamy. Quickly stick the dough bowl in and shut the door.
I first remember having grillades and grits at brunch at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. It was family trip, maybe an early vacation or taking my brother to look at college. My parents made us dress up – would have checked to see that we packed something appropriate, and it would have been our fancy meal of the trip. And Commander’s was fancy, particularly to a young teen with little experience. There were white-coated waiters with trolleys doing all sorts of amazing things like flaming bananas foster and café brulot. What made me order something with the unfamiliar name grillades, I can’t imagine, but I do love veal and those grillades were made with veal.
In truth, grillades and grits are a rustic dish. Slow simmered meat and vegetables served over simple grits, so it seems funny that they pair with one of my earliest fancy meal memories. And the Commander’s Palace I see in my minds eye is nothing like the Commander’s of reality that I know to day. Like how everything at your high school seems smaller and less significant when you return as an alumnae. So grillades and grits sat in my mind as a vaunted, scared New Orleans restaurant dish (I had it a various places over the years), something only served by waiters. But I finally decided to see if it was something I could conquer, and lo and behold, it is a pretty simple dish to prepare. And when you do it yourself, you end up with the dish that evokes the perfect memories and flavors. Tender veal, the trinity of creole vegetables, piquant sauce and creamy grits. Now I want to celebrate my early experiences in New Orleans with this dish of memories any time. Particularly during Mardi Gras season.
Grillades and Grits
1 ½ pounds veal scallopine (about 6 cutlets)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
¼ cup bacon grease (plus more if needed)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
For the Grits:
6 cups chicken broth (plus more if needed)
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 ½ cups stone-ground grits
6 ounces cream cheese, cubed
6 Tablespoons butter
For the Grillades:
Cut the veal pieces in half or thirds, to yield 4-inch squares. Place the flour and creole seasoning in a large ziptop bag. Add the veal pieces and shake well to coat.
Heat the bacon grease in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Shake any excess flour off the veal pieces and add to the pan. Brown lightly, just a few minutes on each side, then remove to a plate. Do not crowd the pans, do this in batches. Add the chopped onion to the hot grease and cook until golden brown, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan as you go. Add a touch more bacon grease if the pan starts to dry out. When the onions are soft and brown. Add the bell pepper and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft. Add the garlic and cook a few minutes more. Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of the seasoned flour from coating the veal over the vegetables and stir until no flour is visible. Add the tomatoes and their juice and the beef broth. Stir, scraping the browned bits up from the bottom of the pan. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.
Nestle the veal pieces into the sauce, cover the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally for 1 hour. If you would like a slightly thicker sauce, uncover the pan, raise the heat and bubble for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened.
For the Grits:
Season the chicken stock with salt and pepper and bring to a boil in a deep pan with high sides. Pour the grits into the water and stir thoroughly. Cook, stirring frequently to keep the grits from sticking, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the grits are tender, but with a little bite. Be careful while you are stirring, grits spit, so stand back aways. Stir in the cubes of cream cheese until smooth and melted. Stir in the butter until melted.
The grits can be kept covered for an hour or so, then slowly reheated over low, stirring in a little broth if needed.
Serve the grillades spooned over a mound of grits.
Making a fresh loaf of lovely, real homemade bread gives me more of a sense of accomplishment than just about anything. I am not an expert at it, you see, and I am still a little wary around yeast. So I look for simple recipes and adapt them as best I can for my skill level. Because I love that moment when you see that your dough has risen to a beautiful, soft round and then the smell of baking bread coming from your very own oven. And my love for buttermilk is well known, so creating a simple bread that makes the most of buttermilk tang was a natural step for me and this has become my go-to loaf.
This bread is delicious with any kind of jam or jelly and makes a very nice sandwich. But for out January soup month extravaganza purposes, it’s amazing with a big bowl of soup. Spread with a nice butter, toasted if you like.
1 packet (.25 ounces) rapid rise yeast
¼ cup warm water (about 110°)
¾ cup whole buttermilk
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
2 ½ – ¾ cups bread flour
Sprinkle the yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer and add the warm water. Give it a little swirl to distribute then leave it to proof until bubbly and creamy, 5 – 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the buttermilk and the butter, cut into chunks, in a small saucepan and heat over medium low, just until the butter melts. Let the mixture cool slightly – you want it just warm enough to touch.
Add the honey, salt and warm buttermilk mixture to the yeast in the bowl, then add 1 ½ cups of flour. Use the dough hook on medium speed to blend the ingredients together until you have a wet, shaggy dough. Scrape the sides of the bowl and the hook if necessary. Add more flour, ¼ cup at a time, beating at medium until you have a mass of smooth dough (you may not use all the flour). Continue beating until the dough is smooth and elastic and comes together in a nice ball. All this should be about 5 minutes on the mixer.
Gather the dough into a ball and place it in a large, buttered bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 ½ hours. Here’s a tip I learned from my bread-baking friend Holly. The microwave is a warm, draft free place great for rising dough. Just leave a post-it not so no one turns it on. Even better, create a moist, warm dough habitat by putting a measuring cup with ½ cup of water in the microwave before the bowl of dough and zap for 2 minutes, until the inside is nice and steamy. Quickly stick the dough bowl in and shut the door.
Punch down the risen dough and form it into a loaf. Transfer it to a buttered 8 by 4 inch loaf pan and leave to rise until it fills the pan, about another hour.
Heat the oven to 375°. Bake the bread until it is nicely browned, about 30 – 35 minutes. Turn the bread out into your oven-mitted hand and tap on the bottom; it should give a nice hollow thud. Remove it from the pan and wrap in it in a clean tea towel to cool completely.
Makes 1 loaf
I adapted this recipe from an old community cookbook, modernizing and stream lining it a bit, but I can’t imagine its origins. Maybe Scandinavian? Or a take on a French quatre epices? A Byzantine tradition? I don’t know, but the unusual spice combination lightly sweetened with honey really sets this bread apart. I want there to be some story that this is symbolic of the Three Kings riding in from the East, with the whiff of exotic spices. Though that is just my fanciful imagining, there is something mysterious about the flavor of this alluring loaf.
I love this bread warm with honey butter, on a cold morning, with a cup of warm tea or hot chocolate. But it is also rather intriguing beside a bowl of creamy soup. The honey butter, of course, has more uses than I can list here.
Holiday Spice Bread with Whipped Honey Butter
¼ cup warm water
1 packet active dry yeast
1 cup milk
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) Tablespoons butter, divided
½ cup honey
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
4 – 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
Place the warm water in the large bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle over the yeast. Leave to become foamy and bubbling.
Pour the milk into a 2 cup glass measuring jug or small bowl and add 6 Tablespoons of the butter cut into pieces. Microwave in 20 second bursts until the milk is just warm and the butter is melted. Stir well.
When the yeast has foamed up, add the honey, milk mixture spices and salt to the yeast in the bowl. Beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until everything is just blended. Add the flour slowly, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. When you have added 2 cups of flour, beat in the egg, then continue adding the flour until you have a shaggy ball of dough, most of which clings to the paddle in a ball, but all of which you can easily scoop into a ball.
Butter a large bowl well, scoop the dough into a ball and transfer to the bowl. Turn the dough ball around in the bowl so it is buttered on all sides. Cover the bowl with a towel and place in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until doubled in size.
Punch down the dough and knead it 3 – 4 times, then place in a well butttered 9-inch round casserole dish. Cover and let rise for another hour.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Bake for 1 hour or until golden, firm and it makes a hollow sound when you knock on it. You can tent the loaf lightly with foil if it starts gets darker than you prefer.
Melt the remaining butter (after using some to grease the bowl and the casserole) and brush over the top of the hot bread. Cover with a tea towel and cook in the pan (covering the bread keeps the crust soft).
Makes on 9 – inch loaf
Whipped Honey Butter
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
¼ cup honey
¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste, vanilla seeds or vanilla extract
Beat the butter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment to smooth it out. Add the honey and vanilla and beat on high speed, scraping the sides of the bowl a couple of times, until the butter is light and fluffy. Scoop into a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
Makes ½ cup
Boiled custard is one of my great childhood Christmas memories. We spent a lot of Christmases at my grandparents house in Columbia, Tennessee and my grandmother always served boiled custard in Santa Claus mugs and caramel cake for dessert at Christmas lunch. Boiled Custard was something you bought. I never really thought of it as something people make. I assumed it was some mystery product that only the professional dairies could ever produce. Over time, our Christmas traditions changed and some of our gathering don’t have that nostalgic love of boiled custard, but my mom always buys a little carton, even if only a few of us drink it. But I have over the years gotten more and more interested in making things from scratch, and low and behold, I discovered that lots of Southern cookbooks have recipes for boiled custard. I am now pretty sure there are some people who think bought boiled custard is an absolute sacrilege. So, feeling nostalgic, I set out to create a fresh family recipe for an old-time favorite. And it is delicious.
After my Grandmother died, my cousin claimed the old Santa mugs. They were so chipped and cracked no one thought they could possibly be useful and every offer to buy her a new set was refused. I totally understand that. Those mugs filled with boiled custard are a part of Christmas. But I bought my own Santa mug, similar to the old ones, just for me, just for boiled custard.
Southern Boiled Custard
This is a rich drink so small servings will do. If you want to make more, I recommend making it in several batches. It is very difficult to create a larger double boiler and more liquid takes longer to cook and is likely to produce lumps.
1 quart whole milk
½ of a vanilla bean
1 cup sugar
½ cup heavy cream (If needed)
Set up a double boiler and bring the water in the bottom pot just to a low boil. If you do not have a double boiler, place a metal or glass bowl over a saucepan. The bowl should not touch the bottom of the pan or the water in it and must fit securely so steam does not escape.
Pour the milk into the top of the double boiler, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add to the milk. Heat the milk until it is hot to the touch and just bubbling. Do not boil.
Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined. Add the sugar and beat until light and the sugar has dissolved. Slowly add ½ cup of the hot milk into the eggs and beat thoroughly. Repeat with another ½ cup milk. Pour the egg mixture into the milk in the pan and whisk to combine. Continue whisking as the milk cooks. Cook until the custard lightly coats the back of a metal spoon, and when you run your finger through the custard on the spoon it leaves a gap.
While the custard is cooking, wash and dry the bowl and place a wire mesh sieve over it. When the custard is ready, pour it immediately through the sieve. Leave it to cool for a few minutes, then place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface of the custard. This will present a skin from forming. Refrigerate the custard until cold, then pour into a pitcher. If the custard is too thick, whisk in about ½ cup heavy cream.
Serves 6 small glasses
My mother used to make a dish she called Hot Browns on cold nights when we were kids. I loved hot brown nights. I didn’t know that Hot Browns were a real dish, something with a history and many fanatical supporters and traditionalists, I just thought it was something yummy my mom invented, specific to our house. I have to admit that my mom’s version was not traditional. It involved sliced turkey, ham and cheddar cheese soup from a can. My mom always made them in these white porcelain dishes that I think of today as Hot Brown dishes.
As an adult, who cooks the vast majority of the Thanksgiving meal, I have asked my mom to make Hot Browns with the leftover turkey. So it occurred to me some years ago that I should develop a recipe for this favorite treat. In researching the idea, I discovered how serious the discussion of the Kentucky Hot Brown is, with fervent camps for versions with sliced tomatoes, and those without. I even had a Hot Brown in Kentucky that had potato chips piled on top. But I didn’t necessarily want to share the classic recipe, but to re-create the memory from my childhood. So I call these Tennessee Hot Browns to stay out of the battle. I like lots of cheddar cheese, and no tomatoes, but crispy bacon is always a good thing. The sandwiches are hot and cheesy and comforting and perfect for a long weekend.
Tennessee Hot Browns
½ cup butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
6 Tablespoons grated cheddar cheese (plus a little for sprinkling)
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
8 slices white bread
About 2 pounds sliced roasted turkey
8 strips bacon, cooked until crispy
Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then whisk in the flour until smooth and pale in color. Whisk in the milk, cooking until the sauce is thick. Whisk in the cheese and nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Preheat the broiler of your oven. Lay a slice of bread in the bottom of each of four oven proof dishes. If you don’t have individual dishes, lay the bread in a 13 by 9 inch dish. Layer the turkey on top of the bread, then pour the sauce over the top. Sprinkle some grated cheese over the top of each sandwich. Broil the hot browns until the tops are speckled brown and bubbling, about 5 minutes – but watch carefully. Lay the bacon slices on top of the hot browns and serve immediately.
Makes 4 sandwiches
Here’s a fun fall snack that features beautiful green apples and nutty gruyere cheese. A great spread on hearty wheat crackers, this also makes a wonderful sandwich filling that’s particularly suited to rye bread. In fact, those little square slices of party rye are great for an appetizer or little tea sandwiches.
This is a basic blueprint that is fabulous on its on, but feel free to stir in some pecan or walnut pieces, or some dried cranberries.
Apple Gruyere Spread
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces of gruyere cheese, grated
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled
Beat the cream cheese until it is soft, then fold in the gruyere, mustard and chives and mix until combined. Grate the apples with their peels and immediately add to the cream cheese mixture and fold into to completely combined. Make sure the apples are covered by the cream cheese to prevent browning. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors blend. The spread will keep a few days in the fridge.
Makes about 1 ½ cups
My house is slowly being taken over by my collection of cookbooks. There are parts of the house that are not open to the public because of it. And in one of those piles of community cookbooks, I dug out this little piece of Southern ephemera: Some Favorite Southern Recipes of the Duchess of Windsor. It’s been awhile since I looked through it, but I immediately sat down to peruse it again. Published in 1942 (with proceeds going to British war relief), it is much like any Southern community cookbook – no really innovative or unique recipes. Just good down home favorites like fried chicken and spoon bread.
Wallis Warfield (later Simpson, later still Duchess of Windsor) was born in Maryland and took her Southern upbringing very seriously. She was a housewife before she moved into the realms of London society and during her childhood, her mother ran a boardinghouse. So to be fair, I bet she really did know how to cook, and maybe got nostalgic for it surrounded by servants and a husband who was a famously picky eater.
At any rate, I settled on Wallis’ recipe for Feather Molasses Cake. I’ve streamlined it a bit for modern cooks and kitchens, and used sorghum, my favorite Southern sweetener. This is wonderful warm with thick spread of butter for breakfast, but I can easily see the Duchess enjoying this with a good English afternoon tea.
Wallis’s Southern Sorghum Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
½ cup sorghum
1 cup (1 8- ounce container) sour cream
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a large loaf tin.
Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and ginger in a small bowl. Beat the butter in an electric mixer until creamy, then slowly add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sorghum. Add the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and ending with sour cream. When the batter is smooth and combined, scrape it into the prepared loaf pan.
Bake for 35 – 45 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan, then turn out on a wire rack to finish cooling.
Makes one loaf