Breakfast for dinner is a special treat. There’s just something about making pancakes, bacon and eggs at 7:00 at night that seems oh-so-wrong yet oh-so-right. My personal favorite is making waffles, lightly dousing them with maple syrup and strawberries, and sitting down with a plateful as we watch our latest Netflix choice. (Completely off-topic, inane side note: Ditch cable. Stream Netflix. It will change your life. Your bank account will thank you. You will feel smug and cultured by adding foreign films and documentaries to your streaming list. Then you will choose to watch something like When in Rome instead, because you “really don’t feel like thinking tonight”.)
Eating breakfast for dinner is not only fun, but it’s a nice way to have the full-on breakfast experience without having to wake up at the crack of dawn, put forth entirely too much effort for such an ungodly hour and end up with a stuffed belly and a dirty kitchen all before 10:00 a.m. I mean, seriously, how many of us are really up to eating much more than a light meal on any given morning? (Hangovers and Sunday brunches aside, natch.)
Like I told y’all a few weeks ago, my breakfasts usually consist of something on the small side, like peanut butter toast or yogurt and granola. It’s hard for me to indulge so early, because I feel like it ruins my eating opportunities for the rest of the day – not to mention, all I want to do after a huge breakfast is, well, go back to bed. No time for that, folks – no time at all!
So this past Sunday, Hubs and I had yet to get out of bed before we were already discussing breakfast options. The “discussion” went something like this: “I could make pancakes…” I said cheerily. “Mmmphhfff”, Hubs grumbled. “What about waffles?” I offered. “Ggggrrmggghh”, Hubs replied. “Eggs and toast?” I urged. “Ssssssshhh”, he responded. “…Looks like I’m having yogurt, then.”
That night, though, I made up for lost breakfast, so to speak, by infusing breakfast ingredients into our dinner. When we were first married (like, before the earth cooled), I made a wonderful breakfast casserole out of croissants, bacon, sausage, eggs and cheese at our funky little house on Duncan Avenue, following a recipe from the love-him-or-hate-him Emeril Lagasse. The casserole was so good, I kept the recipe – but have, of course, misplaced it somewhere over the years.
I attempted to replicate Emeril’s recipe this past weekend, switching out a few things here and there. Instead of using croissants (tempting, but my love handles shrieked in protest), I used a hearty, nutty bread with all kinds of seedy, crunchy, oaty bits. I also cut back on the heavy cream, using more whole milk instead. The add-ins remained relatively the same: sausage, onion, bell pepper – and of course – plenty of cheese.
The casserole comes together a lot like a sweet bread pudding, mixing the custard mixture with the stale bread and allowing it to soak and get all mooshy-gooshy; the mixture is far from appetizing going into the oven, but it goes through a wonderful metamorphosis during the baking process, puffing up golden brown, and becoming crispy on the outside and pillowy in the inside. You can use spices as you like – I made my own quick mix by throwing together equal pinches of paprika, salt, garlic powder, cayenne, oregano and thyme – but any premixed stuff, like Cavender’s, Landry’s or Emeril’s Essence will certainly do the trick. And as always, change up the ingredients to suit your taste buds – maybe add some Canadian bacon, some chopped steak or some mushrooms. Savor this hearty bread pudding for dinner, and have the leftovers for breakfast! It’s like Seinfeld’s Bizarro World! Enjoy!
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Savory Breakfast Pudding
8 oz. breakfast sausage, removed from casings
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 small bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 c. whole milk
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 tsp. your favorite all-purpose seasoning (Cavender’s, Landry’s, etc.)
8 oz. stale crusty bread, cut into 1” pieces
2 c. grated cheese
1/4 c. bread crumbs
1/4 c. grated parmesan
olive oil, salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large skillet, cook the breakfast sausage until browned, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the drippings and discard the rest. Spoon the sausage into a bowl and set aside.
Using the 1 tablespoon of drippings, sauté the onion and the bell pepper over medium heat until the onions are softened and translucent, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the milk, heavy cream and seasoning and whisk thoroughly to combine. Add the stale bread pieces to the egg mixture and toss gently to combine. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.
After the 5 minutes, add the sausage, onion and bell pepper, and grated cheese to the bread mixture, tossing gently to combine. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the bread crumbs and ¼ cup grated parmesan, pinching the mixture with your fingers until it’s moist and thoroughly mixed.
Spoon the bread mixture into an 8×8 baking dish. Top with the breadcrumb mixture and bake for about an hour, until the top is puffed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
* If the above slideshow doesn’t load, you can view all the photos from this recipe on Flickr.
Laura is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. She was born and raised in Fayetteville. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more of Laura’s contributions, see her Flyer Foodie author page. For more cooking, recipes, and other food-related inspiration, visit Flyer Foodie on Facebook.