Monday, May 08, 2006

Christmas Morning Wife Saver (my favorite brunch!)

April, this is for you. In fact, when I read about your Easter Morning yeast-induced fiasco (and laughed myself silly), I thought of this recipe. But before the recipe, here is the backstory:

This baked brunch dish is a Canadian tradition that was first published, to my knowledge, in "The Best of Bridge Cookbooks." These, are, in my opinion, the best cookbooks, ever, with consistently good, useful, normal-ingredient recipes compiled by an Alberta bridge club. This series has become quite an empire for these ladies, and this recipe is the foundation of it - there are a slew of other recipes equally associated with them, but this is the first big one.

In my family, a riot is likely to break out if it isn't served Christmas morning as it has been for at least 20 years. Now that my sisters and I all have our own families, even when we don't go home to our parents, we make this every Christmas. The first Christmas I spent with my husband's family, I woke up mourning my traditional breakfast, but was thrilled when I learned that his sister-in-law made it, too. In fact, I'll bet that every third house has this Christmas morning, at least in Western Canada! I feel extra pampered when we have this for a non-Christmas brunch.

The logic behind the name, "Christmas Morning Wife Saver" is that you make the recipe up the night before, but in fact you can do this long before you plan on serving it (a couple months?), wrap it tightly and freeze it (also, when I freeze one, I tape a ziplock baggy with the cereal, but no butter, to the top of the casserole so I don't forget the topping). Christmas eve, you take it out and let it thaw on the counter, then in the fridge so that by Christmas morning, you just have to pop it in the oven (still works if it is a little frozen). It bakes for 1 hour, then rests for at least 10 minutes - the perfect amount of time to open gifts while the house fills with the yummy aroma of it baking. (No fussing with yeast!)

The cookbook suggests serving this with fresh fruit and their special cinnamon buns, but I find the buns to be too much with the wife-saver. My favorite side dish is fresh cut pineapple to contrast with the warmth and comfort-food character of the wife-saver, and a few fresh strawberries for colour. I almost always have one in my freezer, "just in case." Also note that the recipe is for a 9x13 pan and serves 6-8, depending on appetite. I usually make up 2 recipes worth and make one full 9x13 and 2, 8x8 pans worth (I mix the egg-milk solution up in separate batches, so that no pan gets shortchanged of onion/peppers). I prefer using glass pans, but usually make the 8x8 versions in the foil pans you can get at the grocery store, because they fit perfectly inside a 1-gallon ziplock for freezing. The smaller ones are nice for our small family, while the larger is good for when the grandparents join us.

Christmas Morning Wife Saver
16 Slices white bread, crusts removed (ie, cut into squares - use a firm sandwich bread, or I use my homemade, sliced a bit thinner than usual. The bread has to be white, but something like wonderbread would be awful in this...)
Sliced canadian back bacon or ham (Maybe half a pound? I usually just get the vac-packs of backbacon and slice half of it into 8 slices at home - if I don't use back bacon, I use shaved black forest ham)
Slices of sharp cheddar cheese (the same amount as the ham)
6 eggs
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2-1 tsp dry mustard
1/4 cup minced onioni
1/4 cup finely chopped red pepper (the original recipe uses green, but I far prefer red in this recipe, plus it is prettier)
1-2 tsp worcestershire sauce
dash tabasco
3 cups milk (skim works...)
1/4 lb butter
at least 2 cups coarsely crushed cornflakes or special K

In a 9x13" buttered glass baking dish, put 8 pieces of bread. Add partial pieces, if needed to cover dish entirely (but you don't have to cram it in). Cover bread with bacon or ham. Top with slices of cheddar cheese. Cover with slices of bread, as on bottom.

In a bowl (where else?), beat eggs and pepper. Add mustard, onion, red pepper, worcestershire sauce, milk, and tabasco. Pour over bread, cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, melt butter and mix with cereal. Sprinkle over bread.

Bake at 350F, uncovered, 1 hour. Let sit 10 minues before serving.


At 5:36 AM, Blogger Karen said...

This sounds really good. Is it overly "eggy"? I don't like eggs but I do like French Toast.

At 8:59 AM, Blogger Soil Micro Mom said...

No, it is not very eggy. After you let it rest, the egg really just lets it set so that the casserole (for lack of a better description) has some structure, not unlike french toast. It is a moist (but not wet) dish, though. My husband really doesn't like eggs and LOVES this.

At 1:07 PM, Blogger Nuclear Mom said...

Oh yum! This looks good and will give us time to hang out in the morning before they leave without feeling the need to spend all morning in the kitchen. Thanks!

At 8:35 AM, Anonymous Sarah said...

I've made something like this for years, except that I used french bread cut into cubes and jsut mix it all up together. I've got two versions: one that's veggies only, and one that's got meats and veggies. and

At 5:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does the bacon turn out? Does it cook well?

At 4:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bacon needs to be cooked crisp first

At 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I am freezing it, do I cook it first?

At 12:06 PM, Blogger corrie leippi said...

I'm wondering samething


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