The reason I’m so obsessed with the Christmas season is my mother. She gets full blame for it, really. My whole life, Christmas has been a jolly, wonderful, month long celebration with food, decorating, cookies, trees, lights, eggnog, and family time.
I remember waking up every year in the wee hours of Christmas morning, way before the sun came up, and getting up with my siblings to run out to the tree, to discover the “proof” of Santa my mom always carefully left out for us to find (sooty footprints, eaten Reindeer carrots, one year she even left reindeer bells hanging from the roof) and find out what he had brought us.
We would wake our parents up and this ungodly hour, and they would emerge from their bedroom, tired but happy, make a pot of coffee and some hot chocolate, build a big fire, and let us open presents.
When the present unwrapping was finished, my mom would always pull a warm breakfast casserole out of the oven that she had assembled the night before. White bread, sausage, egg, and cheese were the only ingredients, and it was always heaven. The eggs would soak overnight in the bread and the result was a fluffy, light, egg, sausage and cheese casserole that we would absolutely devour.
Breakfast strata. Almost like a sausage and cheese souffle.
I slept at my parents’ house on Christmas Eve, even after I was married (my husband would come too, of course) until I had kids of my own, so we could continue this morning tradition. Now that my kids are old enough to know about Santa, this very scene plays out in my own home on Christmas morning. We have added homemade cinnamon rolls (which we also make on Christmas Eve) to the mix, but the strata casserole is a constant.
This recipe has to sit in the fridge overnight. You can’t make it the morning of and have it be as good. What better time for a breakfast that is completely assembled the night before than Christmas morning?
A Julie Kimball recipe.
1 loaf of soft, white sandwich bread (like Wonder Bread) – you will need 18 pieces
1 lb of ground breakfast sausage (Italian or regular, don’t use maple or anything)
12 large eggs
1/3 cup of milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided
Cook your breakfast sausage and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain the grease.
Cut the crusts off of 18 pieces of white bread, keeping them as large as possible. Take out a 9×13 casserole dish and spray it generously with cooking spray (or butter it)
Mix together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper, and mix well.
Line the bottom of your baking dish with 9 pieces of the bread, 3 rows of 3. Cover that evenly with the cooked sausage, and top the sausage with the cheese. Place 9 more pieces of bread on the top (you can cut the bread to fit your pan if needed.)
Pour the egg mixture over the top of the bread, and press down on it with clean hands to get the egg to soak into the entire mixture. Top with remaining cheese, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge overnight.
The next morning, preheat the oven to 350°. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is bubbly and edges are golden brown. Serve.