Thursday, July 26, 2007

Brunch Gratinee Eggs

Back when I was still working full time, had teenage children at home, had fewer hours of time for anything, I seemed to be able to squeeze in more entertaining than I do now. I loved spending 8-10 hours in the kitchen prepping all the dishes for a brunch for 10 people for the next day. Now that I'm retired, have more time on my hands (no, I'm rarely bored), I don't entertain as often. Why is that? Must be because I've slowed down my hectic pace. I must have been far more organized than I am now. And today I don't choose to spend so many hours in kitchen prep either.

But in those days Dave and I often entertained, either at home or on our sailboat. At least once a month we had brunches or dinners on the boat for 6-10 people, motoring around Newport Harbor, usually dropping a short anchor in one of the very chichi private lagoons, just long enough to tip a few glasses of wine or champagne, have brunch or dinner, then we'd motor again as we enjoyed coffee and dessert, glancing into the gorgeous multi-million dollar homes that line Newport Harbor. In the evenings, the houses were lit up and looked so beautiful. Back then we kept our boat on a mooring (for the non-boaters, that's a permanent anchoring place that's not at a dock, but sits offshore about 100-200 feet) in Newport, so we had to row a rotted old fiberglass dinghy from the shore to the boat, remove all the paraphernalia we used to TRY to keep the seagulls from defecating all over the decks, because they thought the boat was their private hanging-out place when we weren't on board, motor it to our small yacht club (a 30-minute ride) to wash and scrub the decks, then get ready for entertaining. Now our boat is in San Diego, at a dock and we don't have to do that - we drive about 80 minutes and we're on board at a comfy dock. More gasoline to drive there, but a heck of a lot less work and stress.

So, brunch dishes became a staple in my cooking repertoire, and I was always on the lookout for something new and different. Something that could be made ahead, too, since the galley on our 38-foot sailboat isn't exactly roomy. It's certainly functional, but it isn't luxurious. It has a small double sink, hot water, a propane 4-burner stove, an oven plus a narrow but deep refrigerator.
I have a number of different egg casseroles I've made over the years, and I'll likely share most of them here in time. But this one is a favorite of all the choices. I've made this for Christmas morning when we've had a houseful of people. Have all the ingredients all ready, then mix it up just before baking. And I've made it for numerous brunches at home as well. It's not difficult. The Italian sausage is what makes it, though. Please don't substitute, although you could use turkey Italian sausage. But not the pre-cooked type - use only fresh sausage. The recipe came from Bon Appetit magazine. I don't know when, but at least 20 years ago! But it's still just as good this many years later.

Brunch Gratinée Eggs
Recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine
Servings: 10
1 lb Italian sausage -- sweet or hot
1 tbsp butter
8 med mushrooms -- sliced
1 med red onion -- chopped
12 lg eggs -- beaten
1 cup milk
8 oz mozzarella cheese -- shredded
2 med tomatoes -- peeled & chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper -- fresh ground
1/2 tsp oregano -- crumbled

1. Preheat oven to 400. Generously grease large ovenproof skillet or large, shallow baking dish; set aside. Crumble sausage into skillet and fry over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until sausage is no longer pink. Drain well and transfer to large bowl.
2. Wipe out skillet. Add butter and melt over medium heat. Add mushrooms and onion and sauté until onion is soft, but not brown. Stir into sausage. Blend in remaining ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Turn into prepared dish. Bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.
NOTES : This makes a lovely dish for the holidays, as everything could be made ahead and mixed at the last minute and popped into the oven.
Per Serving : 359 Calories; 28g Fat (70.6% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 316mg Cholesterol; 644mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 2 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 4 Fat.
To view a printable PDF recipe, click on title at top. (photo from Kraft foods)

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