Recipe Finder | Breakfast casserole puts a new spin on brunch

For The Baltimore Sun
This breakfast casserole uses bread as a nest for whole eggs.

Patty Wolfe of Boise, Idaho, was looking for a recipe for a breakfast casserole like the one that her sister-in-law used to make in the 1960s. She said it was rather unusual because it was made with whole eggs that were dropped into indentations in a bed of rice and baked.

I did not receive any recipes that were exactly what she described, and I had no luck finding a breakfast casserole made with rice that used whole eggs. I did, however, come across a recipe on a blog called Noble Pig (adapted from Food & Wine) that had several of the key elements of the recipe Wolfe had described. This recipe, like many other breakfast casseroles, has bread as the base. But unlike the more typical strata-type casserole in which the eggs and liquids are mixed into the bread and baked altogether, the bread is used as a nest for the eggs — much the way Wolfe recalled the rice being used in sister-in-law's dish.

While this may not be exactly what Wolfe was searching for, I would recommend that she give it a try. It looked stunning, was chock-full of flavor and just a little bit out of the ordinary. It's a nice dish to make for company, as it can be made in advance to a certain point and then baked off just before serving. It would make a beautiful dish to serve for a special brunch but would also be great for a weeknight family dinner.

Requests

Elizabeth Roemer of Annapolis would love to have the recipe for the rice dish that was served as an accompaniment to the stuffed shrimp at Chart House restaurant on 2nd Street in Annapolis. She said it is a good substitute for potatoes, and that she thinks it was made with brown rice.

Fredona King of South Bend, Ind., would like to have the recipe for the tiramisu that is served at the Olive Garden restaurant chain. She has tried others, but none was as smooth and creamy.

Bacon, tomato and cheddar breakfast bake with eggs

Adapted from Food & Wine by Noblepig.com

Makes 6-8 servings

1 pound white artisan bread cut into 1-inch cubes (16 cups)

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound sliced applewood smoked bacon or other good-quality smoked bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 28-ounce can whole Italian tomatoes, drained, chopped and patted dry

1/2 pound extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (8 ounces)

1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (8 ounces)

2 tablespoons snipped chives

1 3/4 cups chicken broth

6 to 8 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. In a large bowl, toss the bread with the olive oil and spread on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, tossing once or twice, until the bread is golden and lightly crispy.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the bacon over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain; reserve 2 tablespoons of the fat in the skillet.

Add the onion to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until liquid is evaporated, about 3 minutes.

Return the toasted bread cubes to the bowl. Add the contents of the skillet, along with the bacon, shredded cheeses, chives and broth. Stir until the bread is evenly moistened. Spread the mixture in the baking dish and cover with lightly oiled foil.

Bake the bread mixture in the center of the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the top is crispy, about 15 minutes longer. Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven and using a ladle, press six to eight indentations into the bread mixture. Crack an egg into each indentation. Return the dish to the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny. Cook longer if you do not want runny yolks.

Serve right away while it's warm.

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