Saturday, November 14, 2020

A New Stuffing for a COVID Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is looking a lot different this year, so why not cook something different? This dish -- called "Savory Bread Pudding with Mushrooms and Parmesan Cheese" when it was first published in Bon Appetit several years ago -- is not really a stuffing in the traditional sense, but it has all the essential credentials -- mushrooms, seasoned bread, onions and celery. It's just baked with more eggs.

Some folks don't like anyone messing around with their traditional Thanksgiving favorites. (I know; I live with one.) But when I first tried this recipe, I was pleasantly surprised that Mr. Rosemary liked it.

It's a little complicated, something I often find with recipes from Bon Appetit. And I have been known to -- often -- just use a recipe as a guide and then put my own twists on it. But I followed this recipe to the letter, and I'm glad I did. The only thing I had trouble with was gauging the amount of bread? How do you measure 10 cups of bread?!?

My sister shared this recipe with me. She made it for her card group and got raves about it. A woman asked for the recipe was awed, however, when she read the recipe. It does have quite a few steps.

This Thanksgiving is definitely going to be different. But as a sister-in-law pointed out when the family was discussing how to spend the holiday, "Some of my most memorable Thanksgivings were the different ones."

Her comment reminded me of a couple very memorable Thanksgivings:

When I was a freshman in college, I couldn't afford to fly home, so a small group of my newly made (and also homeless) friends and I made a Thanksgiving dinner in the dorm's kitchen. None of the dishes we made were exactly like "home" but we did our best and I can still picture the candle wax dripping down the wine bottle.

Several years later, when I was the ripe old age of 23, I decided I was going to host Thanksgiving for the whole family. What was I thinking?!? But it was wonderful. Best of all, they all came! My sister brought a blank apron, and fabric pens for every one to sign. I wish I still had that.

And my nephew and I will never tell anyone that we dropped the candied sweet potatoes on the kitchen floor, scooped them all up, and ate them anyway. 

I'm not sure yet what I'll be making for Thanksgiving. Still working on it, and Mr. Rosemary isn't too picky. He did say that we had to have turkey, though. He must want to be sure and have the tryptophan for a healthy nap.

Enjoy your COVID Thanksgiving, whatever you do. Whatever you do, you're sure to remember it.

Savory Bread Pudding with Mushrooms and Parmesan Cheese

Makes 10 to 12 servings

from Bon Appetit 

1 1-pound loaf crusty country-style white bread

1/4 cup olive oil

4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

1 large garlic clove, minced

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter

1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (about 1 large onion)

1 1/2 cup thinly sliced celery (about 3 stalks)

1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper (about 1 large pepper)

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

3 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

8 large eggs

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes (about 10 cups loosely packed). Place cubes in a very large bowl. Add oil, thyme, and garlic; toss to coat. Spread cubes out on a large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until golden and slightly crunchy, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Return toasted bread cubes to the same very large bowl.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, celery, and bell pepper. Sauté until soft and juices have evaporated, about 15 minutes. Add sautéed vegetables and parsley to bread cubes.

Whisk heavy cream, eggs, salt, and ground pepper in large bowl. Mix custard into bread and vegetables. Transfer stuffing to prepared dish. Sprinkle cheese over. (If you want to do ahead, cover and refrigerate at this point. Just bring the dish to room temperature before baking.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake stuffing uncovered until set and top is golden, about 1 hour. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Let's Have Lasagna for Breakfast!


I must confess that I have eaten pizza for breakfast, but not lasagna. At least not until my sister-in-law told me about having a special breakfast lasagna. 

“Lasagna for breakfast!?!” I asked. 

“Yeah,” she answered. “It was really good.”  

Although she didn’t have the recipe, she described it well. I peppered her with questions, wondering if it had lasagna noodles, a tomato sauce, what kind of cheese. 

Armed with all her answers, I went in search of a recipe. First, I went to my pretty substantial cookbook library and came up dry. None of my favorites had anything like what she described. 

So I resorted to the internet and was surprised at how many different versions of “breakfast lasagna” I found. There were recipes with lasagna noodles, crepes, pancakes, and tortillas. Some had red sauce; but most didn’t.  Some had bacon, ham, sausage, even seafood. 

I found one that pretty closely resembled what my sister-in-law had described on a website called “Just a Pinch.” Using that as a starting point, I went from there and added my own twists. 

I really don’t make lasagna very often. First of all, it’s a lot of work, and it’s far too much for two people. 

Making lasagna is an act of love. It is its own art form. It is my husband’s family’s traditional Christmas Eve dinner. It’s what my daughter requests when she comes home. 

Like pizza, I don’t think I’ve ever met a lasagna I didn’t like. You can make a good lasagna with store bought sauce and noodles, and plenty of mozzarella, and ricotta or cottage cheese. You can make a great lasagna with homemade crepes and ragu, a rich bechamel sauce, and a variety of meats and cheeses. And there are all kinds of levels in between.

This breakfast lasagna has layers of noodles and scrambled eggs smothered in a sausage gravy and lots of cheese. The eggs replace the ricotta layer in traditional lasagna. It’s still rich, and if you really need to lighten it up, you can use milk instead of half and half for the sausage gravy. But don’t leave out the nutmeg; it adds just the right touch of spice to the dish. 

The acid test was Mr. Rosemary's critique. He looked at me kind of funny when I told him that we were having a breakfast lasagna, but he was game to try it. After the first bite, he simply said, “This is good.” After his plate was clean and he wanted another piece, he said, “That was real good.” 

I have to warn you that this does take a little time to prepare and a few pans to clean up. But once the lasagna is prepped and the kitchen is clean, you can put it in the fridge overnight for the next day and sit down leisurely to a feast the next morning. If you do make it ahead, take it out of the fridge about a half hour before baking. 

I know this will be a repeat at our house. I wish I would have dreamed it up myself. Maybe I should work on that. Breakfast Chili maybe? 


Breakfast Lasagna

adapted from “Just a Pinch.” 

Serves 10-12

9 uncooked lasagna noodles

1 pound bulk Italian sausage (sweet or hot,) cooked and crumbled

12 large eggs, beaten

1/2 cup half and half

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

12 slices provolone cheese

1 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 1/2 cup half and half

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13" x 9" baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.Whisk together eggs and 1/2 cup half and half.

In a large skillet, scramble eggs over low heat until just set, remove from heat.In another frying pan, over medium high heat, cook the sausage until browned.Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.

In the same skillet, add the vegetable oil and cook the peppers and onions until softened.Add flour and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes.

Whisk together the 3 ½ cups of half and half, add salt, pepper, and nutmeg and add to onions and peppers and continue to cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until it thickens slightly. Remove from heat.

Mix together 1 cup mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. (Reserve remaining cheese for top.) Spread ½ cup of the white sauce evenly in pan. Evenly space 3 lasagna noodles over sauce. Pour 1 cup sauce over noodles. Then, evenly spread 1/3 each of sausage, scrambled eggs and cheeses over noodles. Repeat the layers two more times -- noodles, white sauce, sausage, eggs and cheese, ending with cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining ½ cup mozzarella and bake for an additional 15 – 20 minutes. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.