It has been a lavish, fattening holiday season. I think I've eaten the better part of an entire glazed ham and I've just polished off tin of Cadbury chocolate finger biscuits while uploading my photos for this post.
January 2nd will be a day of reckoning but I do intend to end 2011 with a bang. A bang of the cheese fondue and champagne cocktail
variety. Then I will spend New Years day lazing about the house watching marathons of Criminal Minds
on A&E in my pajamas or maybe if we're feeling especially spry going to grab Dim Sum
and then catching some blockbuster blow 'em up movie with lots of 3D and special effects. Nobody's resolutions actually start on New Years Day. That day is all about recovery and whatever will aid in that. Kale, brown rice and virtue can wait one more day don't you think?
Growing up my mother and many of her friends all made the same breakfast casserole for Christmas morning. I think they all were reading the same magazine or got the recipe from the same person. It was layers of white bread, processed cheese slices and peameal bacon layered in a casserole with an egg and milk mixture poured over it all. It was prepared on Christmas Eve and refrigerated until morning. While us kids opened our stockings Mom would pop it in the oven and an hour later after the presents were opened and we'd struggled to assemble some new toy breakfast was ready with little muss and fuss. I don't remember the exact name but it was something terrible like "housewives helper" or similar*.
I've since borrowed mom's idea and used it to make several upscale breakfast casseroles or stratas. They are perfect for brunches and good for serving a crowd. A little bit of work the evening before and you've got a delicious almost effortless meal the next morning. I've done a goat cheese and asparagus
version for a Mother's Day brunch and switching up the breads and cheeses can give you almost limitless options.
We live in Toronto's Corso Italia
neighbourhood and all our local grocers are stacked with Panettone at this time of year. It's hard to resist these imported Italian sweet breads - they are often packaged beautifully and look like big presents. Filled with raisins and candied peel and meant to be served in slices with sweet wine to be honest I didn't see the appeal. Despite being lavish with eggs (panettone are made with whole eggs and even extra yolks for good measure!) and butter (to epitomize the richness and generosity of the season) they always seems a bit dry to me. Maybe it's because the ones we get were likely baked months ago, packed and then imported to Canada. Not wanting to waste these relatively expensive breads (we always seem to get at least one as a gift) I discovered they make a fantastic pain perdu or "lost bread" casserole in the style of my mother's old recipe.
I think they look like big mushrooms:
This version of the breakfast casserole is on the sweet side so I serve it with a fruit compote, a baked glazed ham and a green salad with lots of bitter greens for our family's Christmas brunch. It's now become a tradition of our own.
A breakfast casserole like this is are the perfect use for any panettone you have hanging around from the holidays that you don't know what to do with or want to rid yourself of before starting back to work after the holidays.
I think the smartest thing would be for me to whip one of these up before I start indulging on New Years Eve so the next morning I can have something comforting and delicious to nibble at and offer any strays who've crashed over at Casa Hillman the night before. Even in my foggiest state I'll still come across as the hostess with the mostess.
Shana's Panettone Pain Perdu
1 Panettone (cut into 1-2 inch cubes)
8 eggs beaten
1 ½ cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Butter for the pan and more for the top.
Preheat oven to 325. Grease a 9x13 casserole dish. Pack with panettone. Pour egg mixture over, cover with foil and refrigerate over night. In the morning pull out of fridge, dot with more butter (the amount will depend on how you feel), replace foil and bake for approximately 45 minutes until eggs are set up. Remove foil for the last 5-10 minutes to brown up the top. Allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. The eggs will continue cooking. Serve with syrup or a fruit compote. I used rhubarb berry compote I preserved up in the early summer and it was a tart and perfect pairing.
Enjoy your evening and here's to all sorts of delicious treats to come in 2012!
*I was just reminded of the name of the 1970s casserole over on facebook. It was called "Wifesaver Breakfast Casserole" which is funny as breakfast was usually my Dad's domain. I think the only time my mother ever darkened the kitchen in the mornings was to make this once a year dish.