All right, when I say “egg souffle”, I realize that sounds redundant. You’re probably picturing a big, round, fluted souffle dish with a tall tower of fluffy egg climbing out of the top, right? Okay, stop. Because that is not to whence I am referring. No, no….my grandmother’s egg souffle is a breakfast casserole with a fancy(ish) name.
If you’ve read my post “Why I Cook“, you know that my grandmother was probably the greatest influence on my love of and fascination with food. She cooked dinner nearly every night and was a very precise cook. She had several dishes that I would consider her “signature dishes”, things that I can’t eat without thinking of her. This is definitely one of them. When I was growing up, we only ate this once a year, on Christmas morning. Every Christmas morning, I could be assured that we would eat egg souffle and Pillsbury orange danishes. There’s a funny story about this casserole, too. When someone would pass away, my grandmother knew that most people taking food to the family would not think about breakfast, so this was what she always took to the family. It was a secret recipe, and she didn’t share it with anyone but family members, whom she assumed would keep the secret, well, a secret. Unfortunately, her mother, my great-grandmother, apparently was unaware that this recipe was a secret….and she published it in her church cookbook. My grandmother was not happy.
I wonder how she’d feel about me sharing it on the internet. I hope she’d be okay with it….and I hope that, while the recipe is not 100% true to her original, she’d be proud that I’ve made it my own. It’s the best breakfast casserole I’ve ever had, and I hope that you’ll try it, in honor of my grandmother Betty. By the way, this is a “make-ahead” recipe that needs to sit overnight, so it’s great for special occasions, so you don’t have to slave over the oven.
Start with a pound of breakfast sausage. My grandmother used breakfast sausage links, which she would cut into small pieces, but I got this sausage in the meat department at Earth Fare…it was made there. Cook the sausage till browned. If you are using bulk sausage like I am, you can leave it in large chunks like I show here, or you can scramble it into very small pieces, whatever your preference. I’ve done it both ways.
You’ll need two cups of shredded cheddar-that’s a regular-sized bag or a whole chunk, which, of course, is what I show here, since I rarely buy bagged cheese. You’ll also need six slices of whatever kind of bread you have on hand. My grandmother used regular old white bread, but here I’m using whole wheat Sally Lunn bread. Cut off the crusts and cut the bread into cubes, then spread them into an 8×8 baking dish. This dish belonged to my grandmother, and I feel connected to her every time I use it.
Beat together four eggs, two cups of milk, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of mustard powder. I also added pepper, which is not an original part of the recipe. Spread the sausage over the top of the bread cubes, then sprinkle the cheese on top. Pour the egg mixture over the top, cover with foil, and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. While the oven is preheating, I let my casserole sit on the oven so it can warm up just a little, because I am paranoid about thermal shock cracking my Pyrex dish. Bake covered with foil for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 45 minutes.
The casserole is best when it has a little time to set before you serve it. The bread really soaks up the egg, and the combination of the warm, soft, eggy bread, the sharp cheese, and the spicy sausage is perfection. I don’t make this very often, but every time I do, it makes me appreciate a little bit more the gift that my grandmother gave me just by being in the kitchen every night. It’s almost like having her here!