Month: March 2013

Sausage Breakfast Casserole

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one in the DC metro area who doesn’t love brunch. It’s not that I hate brunch — really, I don’t — I just don’t see what the big deal is.

Whenever I go out for brunch, I can’t shake the feeling I’m being herded through like cattle. The restaurants are overcrowded and understaffed. I don’t feel like I have time to taste my food, let alone enjoy a leisurely meal or enjoy the conversation. Sometimes I don’t think the wait staff even refills my water… because I haven’t had enough time to drink it.

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Maybe my problem with brunch isn’t brunch so much as it’s going out for brunch. I enjoy a hearty breakfast after my Sunday morning BODYPUMP class, especially if it involves something I can’t readily make on a weekday before work. And I love the company.

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So when a work trip was unexpectedly canceled and I found myself hosting a friend for Easter, brunch seemed like the ideal choice. This casserole comes together quickly the night before, and falls somewhere between a bread pudding and egg casserole. I served it with a spinach salad, a bowl of fresh strawberries, and mimosas. We decorated a bunny cake, watched a movie, and caught up on life. If you ask me, as holidays go, this one was pretty perfect.

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Sausage Breakfast Casserole

Yield: 4-5 servings

8 oz. ciabatta bread, cut into 1″ cubes
1 lb. pork breakfast sausage (or substitute turkey)
1 1/4 cup milk
6 eggs + enough egg whites to make 1 1/2 cups
4 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400°.

Arrange bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 8 minutes or until toasted.

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Remove any casings from sausage and add to pan. Cook 6 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. (If using turkey sausage, you may need to add a little grease to your pan.)

Combine sausage and bread in a large bowl. Combine milk, cheese, eggs and salt and pepper in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add milk mixture to bread mixture, tossing to coat bread. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish generously coated with cooking spray. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°. Uncover casserole. Toss the ingredients. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until set and lightly browned. Serve immediately, and store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

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Grasshopper Pie

Once upon a time, there was a redhead caught between a red-eye from the West Coast, a fire drill at her big-girl job, and a P!nk concert. She was organizing an International Pi(e) Day party for her office the next day, but there was no rhubarb at the sad excuse for a grocery store down the street. No strawberry rhubarb pie, kids.

Sometimes, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. And in this case, the cookie crumbled quite nicely in her favor.

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Last week I was eating dinner at Jackson 20, which is featuring Grasshopper Pie on its dessert menu right now. It brought back a wave of memories from childhood Christmases and St. Patrick’s Days.

While I’m pretty sure the version from my childhood included Cool Whip, this version from The Pioneer Woman tastes like it came right out of the 1980s.

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Oreos, cream, marshmallows, booze, and about 20 minutes of prep work. Exactly what this busy redhead needed.

Happy St. Patty’s Day!

~Red

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Grasshopper Pie

from The Pioneer Woman

Serves 12

18 Oreos, divided
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 jar marshmallow creme or
24 marshmallows
2/3 cup Half & Half
2 tablespoons or more Crème De Menthe or other mint liqueur (green or clear)
2 tablespoons Crème De Cacao or other chocolate liqueur
Green food coloring, if desired
1 cup heavy cream

In a food processor, pulse 16 Oreos and butter until you have coarse crumbs, and press into the bottom and sides of a pie plate. Set in the freezer while preparing the filling. (Alternatively, you can use a pre-made Oreo crust.)

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt marshmallows and Half & Half, stirring constantly. As soon as it’s melted, place the mix over a bowl of ice water to chill, continuing to stir. When the mixture is cool, stir in liquers. Taste, and add more Crème de Menthe if you want a more intense flavoring. If you want a more intense green coloring, add a couple drops of green food coloring. Beat cream with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold in marshmallow sauce.

Pour into the pan (depending on the size of your pan, you might have a little bit of filling left over). Crush the remaining 2 Oreos and sprinkle on top.

Freeze until very firm, at least 2 hours. Remove from freezer 10-15 minutes before serving.

Chicken and Dumplings

I discovered celery root for the first time a year or two ago. Scary-looking thing, isn’t it?

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My first foray into celery root was a chicken soup with root vegetables, including celery root (or celeriac, as it’s sometimes called). I had walked past it so many times in the grocery store, without ever noticing it.

Big mistake. Once you peel it, it looks a lot like a potato, but it holds its shape when cooking. And it’s quite delicious — to me it’s like mixing celery, cauliflower, and butter into one.

Anyway, I had been jonesing for some kind of chicken stew or dumplings when the latest issue of Bon Appetit arrived. Last week, when the threat of the Snowquester — a supposedly massive snowstorm that preemptively shut down DC — this seemed like the perfect option.

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But, my week was just too busy to get to a regular grocery store (Trader Joe’s doesn’t sell celery root) before the non-storm. Instead, I saved it for the weekend.

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For the wine, choose something rich that can stand up to the chicken and vegetables. My personal preference is Chardonnay, aged in steel (rather than the traditional oak, which I don’t usually care for). But that’s just it — a personal preference. At the end of the day, when cooking with wine, choose one you like, and taste regularly while cooking.

Chicken and Dumplings

Adapted from Bon Appetit and Martha Stewart

Serves 6-8

Stew:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
8 medium carrots (about 1 pound), peeled, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 small celery root (about 12 ounces), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine (such as Chardonnay)
1/2 cup water
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons (or more) Sherry or white vinegar

Dumplings:
3/4 cup flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook 8-10 minutes; transfer to a plate.

Carefully drain all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot. Add carrots, celery root, onion, and leek; stir frequently until softened and beginning to brown, 8-10 minutes.

Add butter; stir until melted. Add flour and stir constantly until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add wine and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until liquid is reduced by half, 5-8 minutes.

Add chicken, broth, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer until chicken is fork-tender, about 35 minutes. Discard bay leaves and herb sprigs. Transfer chicken to a plate. Let cool slightly; shred meat.

Return shredded chicken to soup. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar. Season with salt, pepper, and more vinegar, if desired. Return to a simmer.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and 1/2 cup milk. It should be just a little thicker than pancake batter and should easily drop from the tip of a spoon. (Add additional 2 tablespoons milk if too thick.)

Drop batter in 8 spoonfuls over simmering stew, keeping them spaced apart. Cover and simmer until dumplings are firm, about 20 minutes. Serve in bowls.