In 2002, I was a first-year graduate student at Franciscan University and stuck in Steubenville for Thanksgiving, 10 hours away from my family in Illinois. Thanks to the finals’ schedule that year, which began just days after Thanksgiving, my roommates and friends were equally stuck. So, to cheer ourselves up, we feasted the entire weekend. Turkey, stuffing and garlic mashed potatoes on Thursday; leftovers on Friday; fancy appetizers on Saturday night; and a sausage and hash brown breakfast casserole on Sunday morning. Some studying may have gotten done, too. But not much.

Regardless, of all the tasty treats we cooked that weekend, the sausage and breakfast casserole was probably our favorite. It was warm and hearty, savory and spicy, and, as one of my non-egg-loving roommates pronounced, “Not too eggy!”n 2002, I was a first-year graduate student at Franciscan University and stuck in Steubenville for Thanksgiving, 10 hours away from my family in Illinois. Thanks to the finals’ schedule that year, which began just days after Thanksgiving, my roommates and friends were equally stuck. So, to cheer ourselves up, we feasted the entire weekend. Turkey, stuffing and garlic mashed potatoes on Thursday; leftovers on Friday; fancy appetizers on Saturday night; and a sausage and hash brown breakfast casserole on Sunday morning. Some studying may have gotten done, too. But not much.

Fifteen years later, I’m still making that casserole on Thanksgiving weekend … and Christmas morning … and Easter morning … and for every mini-reunion I host for my grad-school friends and our families. The casserole is easy on me as the hostess; anything I can prepare the day before and cook the morning of is always welcome. And it’s easy on my guests, as well; their otherwise-picky children are known to eat second and third helpings of it (the parents eat their fair share, too). Added bonus: The casserole makes fantastic leftovers — if there are any. Double batches of this breakfast favorite are a must.

If memory serves correctly, the original version of this casserole came from Southern Living magazine. Over the years, I’ve tweaked it here and there so that the final product is reliably perfect. When gluten-free friends have come calling, I’ve easily substituted gluten-free baking mix for the Bisquick; it turns out just as good. Unfortunately, though, if your house is dairy-free, there are no substitutions that will do this recipe justice. There’s too much glorious cheese in it for that.

Emily Stimpson Chapman writes from Pittsburgh.

 She is the author of The Catholic Table: Finding Joy Where Food and Faith Meet (Emmaus Road).

Sausage and Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole

Serves: 8

Prep Time: 40 minutes (plus 8 hours to chill)

Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

 

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 pound pork sausage

1 small onion, chopped small

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 1/2 cups cubed frozen hash browns

1/2 red pepper, finely chopped (optional)

5 eggs

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 3/4 cup whole milk

1 cup Bisquick (or Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking Mix)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

8 ounces sour cream

8 ounces salsa verde

 

Instructions:

Thaw hash browns.

In a large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the sausage and cook over medium-high heat, until all the pink is just gone and the sausage is crumbly (approximately 7-10 minutes).

Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is slightly browned (approximately 3-5 minutes). During the last minute of cooking, add red pepper flakes.

Drain the sausage and onion mixture onto a plate lined with paper towels. Wipe the frying pan clean.

Add the remaining oil to the pan and heat. Cook the hash browns and red pepper over medium-high heat until the potatoes are slightly brown and just beginning to crisp. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, beat five eggs. Add the milk and cheese. Stir to combine.

To the egg mixture, add the baking mix, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

To the same bowl, add the sausage, onion, hash browns and red pepper. Stir well.

Pour the mixture into a 9x12 pan. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator overnight (or at least 8 hours).

In the morning, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bake, covered with aluminum foil, for 45 minutes.*

Remove the foil and cook for 15-20 minutes more, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let stand for 10 minutes.

Serve with generous helpings of sour cream and salsa verde.** 

 

*When doubling the recipe, I use an 11x17 baking dish and cook, covered, for 1 hour and 15 minutes, then for an additional 15 minutes.

** For the adults in the crowd, this casserole pairs exceptionally well with Bloody Marys.