To be honest, David and I have become the team to beat at our local bar’s trivia night. A few weeks ago a question came up about the movie “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” a pretty campy movie starring some kinda (but maybe not really) big-name actresses (Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards, Kirstie Alley, Amy Adams…) about a beauty pageant in small-town Minnesota. Having gone to high school in a fairly small town in Minnesota I got a kick out of that movie’s take on the Minnesotan accent, hunting, and small-town life. Looking back on my actual experience growing up in a small (Lutheran) community in Minnesota, though, I remember the egg bake casseroles brought to church potlucks. Fondly. I wonder how I’d react to them now, but as an 8th grader, I loved the cheesy, eggy squares stuffed full of sausage and glistening with grease. Seriously, I think back in the late ’90s, egg bakes were one of my favorite foods.
But times and taste buds have changed. As with grilled cheese sandwiches, I think one of the secrets to a really good egg dish is a more minimalist approach to cheese: restraint helps refine the dish. And my more adult take on the egg bake dials down the grease and replaces it with healthy simply roasted bell peppers, broccoli, and potatoes. As we enter the season of holidays where breakfast comes more into focus – Mother’s Day, Easter, or the kegs & eggs of St. Patrick’s day – this transformed version of a former childhood favorite brings the ease of a make-ahead meal with some of classic notes of the egg bake: a hearty just-cheesy-enough breakfast entree that isn’t a complete nutritional wash, either.
Potato & Egg Breakfast Bake
1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes
1 small head of broccoli
1 red bell pepper
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 pre-cooked chicken sausage links
8 large eggs
1 cup 1% or skim milk
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
salt & pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare the vegetables: wash the potatoes and cut them into 1/2-inch cubes, cut the stems of the broccoli and cut into small florets, and slice the bell pepper into bite-size (approximately 1/2 inch) pieces.
2. Toss the potatoes with the olive oil and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the potatoes for 30 minutes, using a spatula to scrape the potatoes up off the pan every 10 minutes to avoid sticking. With 10 minutes left, add the broccoli to the baking sheet and stir to coat with olive oil. Add a little more olive oil if the vegetables seem too dry. With 5 minutes left of roasting time, add the red bell peppers.
3. While the vegetables are roasting, cut the chicken sausage into bite size pieces. Place the sausage in a skillet over medium heat and cook, about 10 minutes, to allow the sausage to brown and warm through.
Steps 1 through 3 can be done the day before (except preheating the oven); store the ingredients in the fridge overnight.
4. Whisk the eggs together in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the milk.
5. Grease a large baking dish with olive oil. Spread the vegetable mixture into the bottom and sprinkle with 1/2 the cheese. Add the chicken sausage and stir to combine. Pour the egg and milk mixture over the vegetable mixture and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake in the oven (still at 400 degrees) for 30 minutes.