Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Egg Monday---Casserole & Quiche

Jeannene bonds with people by feeding them. Well, don't we all? But there is a strong tradition in her family of showing love and respect by feeding people. Her dad was brilliant at it and she's following in his footsteps. At every plant she has managed, she makes sure to feed her people well. Earlier in the year, we were at the plant until 2 a.m., making sure there were burgers, hot dogs, and all the trimmings for third shift just as for first & second. I loved helping her, piling great mounds of potato salad on plates, smiling as people turned into little kids choosing their cookies. 

This time, it was breakfast and I got to lend a hand again, going into action to recreate variations on our traditional family Christmas breakfast casserole. I generally throw a sausage & cheddar one together in the crockpot on Christmas Eve. For the team at work's kickoff of the Year of No Excuses, I put together a ham & swiss version and a chorizo version. We did our shopping Sunday afternoon and I put them together before we went to bed so they'd be ready when Jeannene headed to work early. Here's the basic recipe, given to me by a Russian friend, Kira, years ago.

Breakfast Casserole
30-32 oz. package frozen hash browns (make sure to break up any large clumps)
1 lb. diced ham or cooked, crumbled sausage (vegetarians can omit or sub veggie sausage or beans---black beans are especially nice using the extra spices I used with the chorizo)
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced (omitted from the ham & swiss version)
2 c. shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend of pre-shredded cheese for the chorizo version, but crumbled cotija or asadero would be good, too)
12 eggs
1 c. milk (skim is fine, as is 2% cheese)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

Make a couple layers in the crockpot in the following order: potatoes, meat, onion, pepper, cheese. Beat the eggs with the milk & seasonings. I added chile powder, cumin, & oregano to the chorizo casserole. Pour over layers in crockpot. Cover & cook on low 8-10 hours.

We awoke to the mouthwatering smell of a delicious breakfast. The food was whisked out the door, but the aroma lingered, forcing me to make scrambled eggs for myself. Jeannene had breakfast casserole for breakfast & lunch, then arrived home to artichoke quiche for dinner. She wasn't complaining. I served a Greek-inflected cauliflower casserole, a green salad, and grapes with it. The quiche was delicious and tender. As a bonus, it reheats quite nicely for lunch the next day. Some folks even like it cold or room temp.

Artichoke Quiche
1 crust for a 9" pie (my friend, Nicola, is trying to assure me that this is easy to make from scratch, once you get the hang of it---you can do that or use Pillsbury)
4 tbsp. butter (it won't be the end of the world if you use 2)
9 scallions, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
12 oz. marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
A handful of grated parmesan
2 c. shredded cheese (I used cheddar)
1 1/4 c. milk (again, skim is just fine, as is 2% cheese)
3 eggs
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Fit crust into pie plate and bake 10 minutes. Pie weights are not a bad investment to help prevent the crust from puffing. Remove crust and lower oven heat to 375 degrees. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add scallions & garlic and cook 3-5 minutes. Add artichokes and cook another minute. Sprinkle the crust with parmesan. Spread artichoke mixture into an even layer in the bottom of the pie plate. Top with cheese. Beat eggs, milk, & seasonings together. Pour over cheese. Bake 35 minutes. It is wise to place a cookie sheet underneath in case of overflow. Let stand at least 10 minutes before cutting into wedges for serving.

Greek-Inflected Cauliflower 
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 c. diced tomatoes (I would probably omit this next time, though. I would add a squeeze of lemon and some chopped olives)
A pinch of oregano
A pinch of salt
A pinch of garlic powder
A grinding of pepper
About a cup of feta cheese
A sprinkling of dry bread crumbs
A healthy drizzle of olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (or just throw in with the quiche for the last little bit of its cooking time, if serving together). Steam the cauliflower until tender. Toss with the other ingredients & place in a greased 2 qt. casserole. Bake 10-15 minutes.

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