Wednesday, June 15, 2011

French toast casserole with blueberries and sausage

french toast casserole with blueberries and sausage

When most people think of dad cuisine, they think of outdoor cooking. And sure, my dad is an expert with fire—preparing everything from smoked briskets to grilled fish with vegetables. But my dad also wields a deft spatula in the kitchen, especially when he makes his weekend specialty—French toast.

Admittedly, French toast is not a complex dish. It’s simply old bread that’s been rejuvenated with eggs and milk before being fried in a skillet. And yet—despite its uncomplicated ingredients—finesse is required to make a good batch, otherwise it can turn out soggy or burnt. My dad, however, always gets it just right. And that’s why his is the best.

My connection with French toast and fatherhood isn’t limited to my own experience. Take the film “Kramer vs. Kramer,” for instance. There’s a scene early in the film where Kramer decides to prepare French toast for his son. The two are clearly uncomfortable with Kramer’s new role as caretaker, and as they cook the French toast, eggs are dropped, milk is spilled, and Kramer burns his hand. Their breakfast is a disaster.

At the end of the film, however, you see Kramer and his son making French toast in a beautifully coordinated rhythm, as they’ve grown close and learned how to live with each other. Who knew French toast could so eloquently illustrate a father and child’s relationship?



Now, all that said—I’m not going to tell you how to make French toast. Nope, my belief is that it’s not a dish that can be explained by words—practice is what makes it turn out perfect. But, I will share with you the next-best thing—my French toast casserole, made with blueberries and sausage.

My grandma likes to say that I take simple things and make them all complicated. If that’s true, then she will not be surprised that I’ve taken my dad’s simple yet elegant dish and embellished it a bit. Much like regular French toast, French toast casserole is comprised of cooked bread that’s been soaked in eggs and milk. But instead of being pan fried, it’s baked. The inclusion of orange juice, fresh blueberries and spicy sausage also breathes life into this French toast casserole.

Most recipes call for an overnight soak— which you can do—but I think it’s just as good with a short soak, as this keeps the bread from becoming too soggy. And yes, after some time in the oven, the resulting casserole is soft with a bit of crispness, sweet with a hint of savory. Plus, breakfast is done without you having to stand in front of a stove. Sure, French toast casserole isn’t exactly like regular French toast. But don’t worry—the casserole’s heritage is definitely apparent.

french toast casserole with blueberries and sausage

Sadly, I’m not going to be seeing my dad this father’s day, but if I were visiting him I’d make sure he’d have a batch of this waiting for him in the morning, so he could take a well-deserved day off from making the family breakfast. But it’s certainly not a dish to be limited to only Father’s Day, as it’s a terrific weekend breakfast any time of the year.


French toast casserole with blueberries and sausage
Ingredients:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups milk or half-and-half
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 24-inch loaf of French bread, cubed (about 5 cups)
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 pound breakfast sausage, cooked and crumbled
Powdered sugar, syrup and/or sour cream for serving

Method:
In a large, 10-inch ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, on low heat melt the butter and swirl so it coats the bottom and the sides. (Alternatively, you can add melted butter to a 9x9 square pan.)

Beat the together the milk and eggs. Whisk in the sugar, orange zest, orange juice, vanilla, cinnamon and salt until well combined.

Layer the bottom of the skillet with half of the bread. Top with the blueberries and crumbled cooked sausage. Place on top the remaining bread cubes, and then pour over the bread the milk and eggs until all pieces are well covered.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Let the casserole sit unrefrigerated for 20 minutes, until some of the milk mixture has been absorbed, and then bake covered for 25 minutes. Remove the cover and then bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until top is firm and lightly browned. Let the casserole rest for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with syrup and/or sour cream.

Yield: 8 servings

Note: You could also make this with thick Texas toast bread or even leftover buns, if you like. And if you wanted to add nuts, that would be tasty, too.

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36 comments:

John said...

I know a lot of folks who don’t eat eggs (they’re allergic, for health reasons, or concerns about animal cruelty). Here’s an awesome site that gives tips on cooking and baking without eggs: http://EggFreeLiving.com

Caroline @ Pink Basil said...

Oh this looks delicious! I never thought of baking french toast in a skillet, but I'm definitely going to give it a try!

Celeste said...

What a lovely post! The men in your family certainly do a wonderful job of starting the day off right.

I think French toast is the quintessential kind of homecooking that we do from muscle memory. I've just started making mine from whole wheat bread that has ground nuts in it, so fragrant. Can't wait to try it with some orange juice in the wash.

harmfulguy said...

I'm not sure what the difference is between this and bread pudding, or if there is a meaningful distinction -- bread soaked in custard and baked. Whatever you call it, it seems to work as well for breakfast as it does for a dessert, though I've never added a savory / spicy ingredient like sausage before.

One thing I've found is that either one seems to work better with stale (or, from what I've heard, oven-dried) bread. Soaks up a lot more of the custard that way.

Maris(In Good Taste) said...

This is a fantastic brunch or company dish

Frankie said...

What? French toast? fruit? sausage? CASSEROLE?

You are a genius.

Michelle Stiles said...

Oh I love the idea of sausage. I also remember your grandma telling you that you put peppers in everything. No peppers here!

Christy in TX said...

Can't wait to try this. I live in Tyler and my dad just brought home two gallons of blueberries from a pick-your-own farm. We're in heaven looking for ways to use them but this is my favorite idea so far.

Mary @ stylefyles said...

YUM. This looks great. And the best part? I already have all the ingredients on hand, thanks to some baller grocery shopping on my part this Sunday. Well, except the bread. But that won't be a problem, just a $2, 60 second visit to my favorite bakery will do the trick.

Thanks for sharing!

And I love your story! My dad is a breakfast master too!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

John--Thanks for the information.

Caroline--If you must know, I cook just about everything in my cast-iron skillets!

Celeste--That French toast made with whole wheat nut bread sounds amazing! I'll have to try it with that sometime.

Harmfulguy--I reckon it is pretty similar! And yep, stale bread definitely takes to liquid better than fresh.

Maris--Indeed it is!

Frankie--You can never go wrong with those three things!

Christy--How fun! I've never gone blueberry picking but sure would like to some day. I hear the East Texas blueberries are especially plentiful this year. Enjoy them!

Mary--I love it when that happens!

Sarah said...

YES! I've been wanting to try a French toast casserole, but all the recipes I've looked at so far look too rich and too soggy. I'm going to give this a try with veggie sausage and sourdough bread. Thanks!!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Sarah--Hope you like it! I found it was plenty moist and flavorful with half the eggs and milk other recipes call for.

Marcy F. Tarter said...

Another winner, Lisa! I plan to use Texas toast. The only place I've found it unadorned with butter and garlic in Northern VA is at Trader Joe's.

Hornsfan said...

Lisa this looks great - I love this as a Father's Day food, my dad isn't a big breakfast guy but he's one of the first people I remember cooking with so it's special all the same!

Little Black Car said...

I need to make this for the next office breakfast!

Perfecting simple recipes is underrated. Me? I'm the queen of the grilled-cheese sandwich. I can get the outside golden and buttery but not grease-soaked, and the cheese melted but not too melted even though it's real Cheddar and not processed cheese product. I never pooh-pooh a basic recipe done really, really, well.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Marcy--That sounds great! And yep, that's the only place I've found it in NYC, too.

Hornsfan--What a wonderful memory of your dad!

Little Black Car--Your grilled cheese sandwich is perfection, and I want one right now!

rockerkitty13 said...

I'm not a fan of blueberries, can you sub blackberries?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Rockerkitty13--Sure, I don't see why you couldn't substitute blackberries.

Heather @ chiknpastry said...

this looks great, and perfect for a weekend breakfast! sounds a lot like french toast bread pudding :).

my dad always made regular ol' white bread, bacon, and american cheese sandwiches and they were sooooo good! maybe i'll make one this weekend in honor of him since i won't get to see him!

katie@cozydelicious said...

I love the combo of berries and sausage! Sweet and savory and a whole meal in a skillet! We are having a fathers day brunch and this will be awesome on our buffet... I'm sure the family will gobble it up.

Tommy said...

Wow, this looks amazing.And easy too. I think I'll even make your sausage recipe for this dish. It was excellent. The fresh herbs made it.

Ginny said...

Lisa, when you're giving us these recipes that require heating an oven to 400 degrees, please remember your roots and the fact that it's at least 99 degrees every place in Texas now and most places it's well over 100 degrees. It's been that way since May. Every Single Day. No way am I turning on an oven.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Heather--Your dad's sandwich sounds wonderful!

Katie--Berres and sausage is my new favorite combination!

Tommy--Thanks! And yes, homemade breakfast sausage is so easy and so much better than store bought.

Ginny--Ha! Point well taken. It does get pretty hot here, too, and my fellow Texans in New York and I always say that nothing beats the air conditioning back home. New York still hasn't figured that one out.

Janus said...

Regarding a couple of comments on Texas toast: Kroger sells loaves of bread that are cut thick for Texas toast, and they do equally well for French toast.

Now, if you want a sugar overload, I might suggest using a dozen or so day-old donuts (preferably Krispy Kreme).

Liz said...

Lisa - It's forecast to be 106 degrees here (Burnet, TX), but I cranked down the a/c and made this for my husband for Father's Day brunch. It was wonderful. Thanks so much for all your recipes.

Martl said...

I definitely love French Toast and always have. Never thought of adding fruit AND sausage though. (Sounds strange but looks tasty- as literally all of your food pics do).
I've stumbled over your blog about a year and a half ago on a search for a flour tortilla recipe and I'm a dedicate follower ever since.

Martl from Germany

Shelley said...

Sprinkle confectioner's sugar on the phonebook, and I'd eat it. (Writers are always hungry, and we love pretty food.)

Susan said...

What a nice tribute to Dad and what a killer breakfast treat! I need to come by and visit more often! Cheers!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Janus--Thanks for the tip!

Liz--I'm so glad y'all enjoyed it!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Marti--Thank you!

Shelley--I'm with you--powdered sugar makes just about anything terrific!

Susan--Please do!

Katie said...

I love the colors on this dish. I think I might add some strawberries and make it for the Fourth of July!

Susan said...

Breakfast food is my favourite so you inspired me to make a variation of French Toast with my red,white,and blue waffles:) http://www.GreenEyedSusan.blogspot.com

Farmer Julie said...

Thank you for the tip about subbing blackberries - we have a ton of blackberry bushes on the farm and I'm always looking for ways to use them.

This recipe looks *so* good - thanks for sharing it!

Art said...

I'm a dad who made it for my family this Christmas morning. A big hit and "a keeper" according to my wife. Art

Liz Atwood said...

Making this for super bowl brunch in Indianapolis!! Do you think I can make it a day ahead?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Liz--Sure!

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