Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ham and cheese croissant casserole

Ham and cheese croissant casserole | Homesick Texan

When I was a senior in high school, I worked in a clothing store. (If you’re curious, it was a Laura Ashley shop. Yes, I realize this dates me.) For a part-time job it was hard to beat as my co-workers were fun and I got a clothing discount. I have to admit, however, that while creating window displays, ringing cash registers, and hanging up clothes was all well and good, the best part of the day was my lunch break. During this time, I would head to a café in the mall, grab a table, and enjoy a ham and cheese croissant.

The café wasn’t fancy, but since it was away from the main food court it was a quiet spot, which was heaven to me after working with people all morning. There were also large black and white pictures of Paris hanging on the walls, which made it feel very sophisticated. As I ate my ham and cheese croissant, I would look at those pictures and dream about life after high school.

Even though I still have a soft spot for ham and cheese croissants, for some reason I seldom eat them anymore. I’m not sure why. Then, the other day when researching ways to use up leftover ham, I came across Nigella Lawson’s ham and cheese croissant casserole, something she calls “French Lasagne.” It appeared to be a casserole dish made up of croissants, ham and cheese, with a savory egg custard holding everything together. Making it became my top priority.

Ham and cheese croissant casserole | Homesick Texan

The casserole is very simple. You take day-old croissants and slice them into smaller pieces so they will fit into your preferred baking vessel. (I used a cast-iron skillet, but any two-quart baking dish will do.) You add layers of smoky ham and sharp cheese such as white cheddar and Swiss, then pour over everything an egg and milk mixture seasoned with fresh chives.

When adapting recipes, my natural inclination is to throw in a lot of spices along with some chile peppers. While embellishments such as asparagus, spinach, and jalapeños would not be out of place here, I was seeking to make a ham and cheese croissant casserole that harkened back to the classic pastry I enjoyed as a teenager.

With that in mind, I only added to the original egg base some mustard powder, cayenne, and herbs for a bit of piquancy and spice. I also swapped in Swiss cheese for the mozzarella called for in the original recipe instead. The end result was hearty and comforting, buttery and soft, with just enough sharp and smoky notes to keep things interesting.

Ham and cheese croissant casserole | Homesick Texan

If you love quiche or stuffed croissants, then this is a casserole for you. While it’s not overly complicated in its pleasures, this is a large part of its charm. It’s perfect for breakfast, but with a side salad it’s works well as a lunch or supper, too. And while it’s best served warm, I’ve snacked on cold leftovers that were also satisfying. The casserole is a cinch to put together, but if you’re short on time you can prepare it the night before and then bake it in the morning, which will give your busy day a gracious beginning with little effort at all.

Ham and cheese croissant casserole

4 or 5 croissants (12 ounces)
8 ounces chopped ham
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) white cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chives
3 cups whole milk
4 large eggs
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch cayenne

Cut each croissant in half lengthwise (as if you were opening it to make a sandwich) and then cut each cut half into 4 more pieces.

Lightly grease a 10-inch ovenproof skillet or any other 2-quart baking dish. Lay along the bottom of the dish half of the croissants. Top the croissant layer with the ham, half of the shredded cheeses, and the chives. Top the ham and cheese layer with the remaining croissants, tearing them into additional pieces, if necessary, so they fit snugly.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Whisk together the milk, eggs, garlic, mustard powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne until well combined. Pour the eggs evenly over the casserole and then lightly press the top croissant layer into the egg mixture. Allow to rest for 20 minutes or until the bread has absorbed the egg mixture. (If you prefer, you can do this overnight. Just keep the casserole covered and refrigerated.)

After it's rested, top the casserole with the rest of the cheese and bake uncovered for 40-45 minutes or until puffed and golden. (The casserole will deflate a bit as it cools). Serve warm.

6-8 servings




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Rocky Mountain Woman said...

Lovely lunch idea! The best part of my day is lunch with my co-workers. They are all food adventurers like me so it's perfect!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Rocky Mountain Woman--That sounds like a fun bunch of co-workers! And lunch is still my favorite, too.

adventuresinlowvision said...

Can't wait to try this one, seems like it will be a winner.

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Adventures--It's hard to go wrong with all those delicious ingredients. Enjoy!

Tatersmama said...

This sounds sooo good! I have the ham and other fixin's, but will have to run to the store for their (free) day-old croissants, since I haven't bothered picking up any, since giving my chickens away. Maybe making this, will cheer me up!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Tastersmama--Now that's a great price on old croissants--I never thought to ask the bakery for old rolls. What an excellent idea and may the casserole cheer you up!

Terri said...

Hi, long time lurker here but first time commenting. Im a fellow Texan but I'm not homesick, Ive been here in the DFW area most of my 53 years!! Just wanted to say you have a lovely site with so many wonderful recipes. I love hearing the food memories that you share with each recipe. I am also a HUGE Nigella Lawson fan. Love the changes you have made to this recipe. Making it tomorrow for lunches. YUM!!

anotherfoodieblogger said...

What a poignant story! We have lots of leftover ham from Easter dinner. Great idea.

Tblossom said...

This sounds so wonderful! I made something similar to this as I had leftover croissants and a surplus of eggs.I cut up the croissants like bread cubes and toasted them first and then proceeded with bacon , Onion and shredded cheese so good and such a hit. But taking advantage of the layers in the croissant and layering and Swiss cheese with chives sounds even better thanks for the great idea

booknblues said...

garlic powder or fresh?and how much?

Anne Jones Fowler said...

In the recipe it says whisk together . . . garlic. But garlic is not listed in the ingredients. How much garlic do you use?

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Anotherfoodieblogger--It's perfect for using up leftover ham!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Tblossom--You're welcome! I like your idea of toasting the croissants, too!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Booknblues--One small clove garlic, minced.

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Teri--Thank you for the kind words! I'm so glad you enjoy the site! And Nigella's pretty fab, I agree!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Anne Jones Fowler--This is what happens when I post before having enough coffee! In any case, I used one small clove garlic, finely minced, though it's not necessary if you don't like garlic.

sophie said...

I know I am going to love this–it sounds similar to one of my personal comfort foods, a savory bread pudding.

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Sophie--Savory bread pudding is an excellent way to describe this!

Pam said...

This is over the top with goodness. A must try! Thanks.

THE Tough Cookie said...

The way to my heart is with a casserole. It's my favorite food group.

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Pam--You're welcome! Enjoy!

THE Tough Cookie--Amen to that!

Lynne said...

I made this last night for breakfast this morning; it was so good and our guests loved it - love your stories and recipes!

Liz said...

This is essentially what I make for Xmas morning! I assemble it all after putting the stockings out, sick it in the fridge, and then bake it while we open Santa's presents in the morning with coffee! I add mushrooms and bake it in a larger pan, but this is our Texas holiday tradition!

i just adore your site, and the whimsy of you being a homesick Texan while I'm a displaced New Yorker living in Austin (technically Round Rock). It's been almost 15 yrs for me...

Trey said...

This wasn't at NorthPark mall in Dallas, was it? I used to get ham and cheese croissants on my way in to work at the Orange Julius there!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Trey--It wasn't North Park in Dallas, it was West Oaks in Houston.

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