French Toast Casserole

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French Toast Casserole

French Toast Casserole

French toast casserole is good any time of the day (or night!) A meal, a snack, a guilty pleasure. Call it what you want – I call it delicious!

This is a variation on the original recipe by Ree Drummond, sometimes known as The Pioneer Woman on Food Network. She cooks for her family, which includes a crew of cowboys working at the ranch. Me? Often it’s just two of us so a recipe like this would last us a week of breakfasts. Fortunately, we had the monthly United Methodist Men’s Breakfast at church this morning. There were no complaints and not many leftovers.

Serves: 12-14

Pairs well with fresh blueberries on the side, plus a healthy serving of scrapple for those foolhardy adventurous enough to try it.

Ingredients

1 big loaf of French bread (or the bread of your choice, just nothing too flavorful like pumpernickel or rye)

8 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups of milk (I used 2 percent instead of Ree’s whole milk. Trying to be healthy, right? Umm. Yeah. That’s the ticket.)

3/4 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract. Don’t bother with the imitation stuff. Not.the.same.at.all.

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Topping Ingredients

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup light brown sugar (be generous here)

1 more teaspoon of cinnamon

and a 1/2 teaspoon more of nutmeg

8 Tablespoons (113 grams) of butter. Unsalted is fine, not required here. Unless you have that extra stick of unsalted butter you bought last Christmas for that one recipe. And then you went out to eat at the pub instead because your brother insulted your sister’s boyfriends and soon enough people were fighting, lamps were broken and then the third time the police were called… Anyhow – a stick of butter.

Maple syrup to taste, no more than a cup.

Directions

Treat a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish with either butter or cooking spray

Tear the bread into little bite-sized bits and place in the casserole dish.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Pour the egg mixture over the bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Add the butter, blending it with the dry ingredients using a fork. You can stop once the mixture has that grainy, crumbly, sandy type of texture.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

…the next morning…

An hour before the herd awakens, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. / 177 degrees C. / or gas mark 4 if that’s how your oven rolls.

Take the breading and the topping bits out of the refrigerator. Uncover the breading and evenly sprinkle the topping bits on top. (Where else would topping bits go, I wonder?)

Bake uncovered for one hour.

While the casserole is baking, make yourself a nice cup of coffee and enjoy the quiet.

Ten minutes before the casserole is done, warm up the cup of maple syrup. Not too hot, just warm enough to make you want to stick your finger in and get a taste. (I won’t tell if you do it.)

Ding!

The casserole comes out of the oven and you now get to drizzle the warm maple syrup all over the lightly browned topping. I made criss-cross patterns when I did it. Be creative. It all sinks in so don’t stress on the artistic merit of your drizzling technique. But have some fun, right?

Serving techniques: you can slice this casserole into squares, or you can just let everyone scoop out what they want using a large spoon.

This is a popular dish. Make sure you get some.

Good job, chef!

Bon appetit!

 

 

Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole

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Doug's Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole

Doug’s Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole

The Marine Corps, like most military services, has an acronym for everything. Taken from that elite fighting force borne from legendary Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, today’s nom du jour is SMEAC. This is the process Marines use to start planning any and every mission. It gets complicated from there, but this is how everything starts. It works.  And – this process can be used for almost anything that requires planning.  Check out how SMEAC saved the day at today’s church breakfast.

Situation: The monthly United Methodist Men’s Breakfast at church today was going to be short a few cooks. The meeting was in danger of running out of food. (We Methodists can’t seem to do anything without a ton of food!)

Mission:  Produce a breakfast dish that would feed a dozen or so hungry men whose culinary preferences included the likes of frozen, pre-made biscuits and over-fried scrapple.

Execution: Wake up at 5:30 AM and start the recipe, borrowed from the official Ore-Ida website.

Administration: T-24 hours, put the shopping list on the iPhone; go to the grocery store and pick everything up. At 0600 Saturday morning, pre-heat oven and begin prep. Casserole must link up with oven at 0630 in order to ready for transport to the church at 0730. Breakfast commences at 0800.

Command and Control: Set timer for 30 minutes; check casserole at 0700; adjust oven temperature, if needed.

So, how did my extraordinary planning work? Not so well.

First, I forgot to buy one key ingredient from the original recipe (herb seasoned stuffing mix, something we always have in the pantry – except today.)

Second, I woke up late. Only thirty minutes late, but still – late. In Marine Corps parlance, I was UA (unauthorized absence) and in danger of being brought up on Article 15 charges by the CO, who was still upstairs getting ready for the day.

Time was running short. What to do?

In keeping with the theme of using acronyms, the only option was to use the TMDMP, or the “typical man decision making process.”

In other words – just add more cheese. And bacon.

The breakfast was a success, in part to the extra cheesy-ness of this simple to make, hot and bacon-laden casserole. Try it!

Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole

INGREDIENTS

1 pound bacon

1 small white onion, peeled and finely chopped

3 tablespoons of butter

2 pound bag of tater tots

2 cans of condensed Cream of Chicken soup

8 oz of sour cream

16 oz of shredded Cheddar cheese

8 oz of shredded Colby cheese

1 tablespoon of minced garlic

Ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

In one pan, start cooking the bacon.

In another pan, saute the chopped onion with the butter

While these are in process, spray a 9×13 glass baking dish with a non-stick cooking spray.

Put the tater tots into the glass baking dish; spread them out as evenly as possible. Let them start to warm up to room temperature.

By now, the onions should be starting to brown. Take them off the heat and set them aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients.  Watch the bacon; it is probably just about done cooking.

Go ahead and take the cooked bacon out of the pan and set on some paper towels to help drain the excess grease. Try not to sample. Okay, just one. Maybe two. Stop right there – save the rest for the casserole.

Now, crumble the cooked bacon and spread evenly on top of the tater tots.

Mix the sauteed onions into the cheese mixture and spread evenly on top of the tater tots and bacon.

Say a quick prayer and place in the oven. Cooking time is 60 – 70 minutes, more toward 70 than 60. Just don’t let the cheese on top burn too much.

By the time you brew the coffee, feed the dogs and check your Facebook account, the cheesy tater tot casserole will be just about done!

After you pull it from the oven, you should probably let it rest for a few minutes – especially since we are talking about molten cheese. Then again, is there such a thing as too much melted cheese? And hot bacon? I am not responsible for the consequences but go for it if you dare!

I did!

Happy eating!