How satisfying is it when you’re ahead with your Christmas plans? I got my older sister’s presents mailed out with plenty of time but, while standing in line at the post office, it occurred to me that this is the season for cotillion. By invitation only, this Yuletide season dance was the highlight of quite a few high school girls. My older sister, Cynthia, and I always went. Weeks before, Mom would take us to pick out fabric for our seamstress, Maruja, to create our gowns. The dress which always come to mind was a sleeveless, empire style, velvet gown. Cynthia chose a deep, scarlet red velvet where as I chose a rich, garnet tone. Maruja then finished our gowns with a band of heirloom lace around the bodice. They were stunning and we couldn’t wait to get them on. Back then, formal functions meant girls wore floor length gowns and had their hair swept up in curls at their mother’s beauty salon earlier in the day. How we loved getting ready for the big event! Makeup done and hair in place, we both slid on our opera length gloves and gave each other a last minute check while the boys waited for us in the living room, chatting with Mom and Dad as they held our chilled corsages. After the mandatory photos were taken by my parents we were off!
Cynthia’s boyfriend, Kevin, picked her up as did my date/boyfriend du jour, however, we always traveled in separate cars. I don’t remember ever seeing her or running into her on the dance floor or in the cavernous Pier 66 ballroom at any cotillion. Anyway, once my date and I arrived we faced a mile long receiving line manned by the parents of so many of my childhood friends. We ALWAYS had cocktails and lots of ’em in the car on the drive over so the only people in the receiving line I remember are Judge and Mrs. Tedder… and I only remember because she didn’t like me… at all. Too wild, I suppose. After navigating the almost endless introductions and hand shakes in the receiving line, we hit the dance floor. There was every year and without exception, a fabulous rock band. The band members all had wild, shoulder length hair and rocked out all night into the wee hours of the morning in spite of the fact they were required to be dressed in formal wear. I loved those dances. Always fun and happy memories. And just like that, it was my turn back at the post office. Gifts sent, I’m now focusing on my Christmas week menu. Staying ahead of the game is my goal and this brie and sausage casserole is the perfect make-ahead dish. I’ll serve it Christmas morning coupled with my time-honored west Indian spicy crab pie and a fresh fruit salad tossed with a bit of raspberry liquor. Another memory to put on record. Merry Christmas, y’all!
This dish is a do-ahead dream. Although I’ve tweaked this recipe over the years, decades really, allow me to give complete credit to Catherine O’Brien Sturgis of Winnetka, Illinois. I tore her recipe out of a Southern Living magazine eons ago. This recipe is all over the internet. The people who have posted it have copied her words verbatim. So if you look up this recipe and she’s not given credit, the person posting it is a filthy plagiarist. Just sayin’. I’ve tweaked this receipt a bit. I simply added more of the seasonings and a small bit more of the parmesan cheese. Also, I changed the assembling process so it’s oven ready after you pull it out of the refrigerator. As I mentioned, it’s perfect set out and enjoyed while opening presents or at any brunch you may have. The melted cheeses are incredibly gooey and satisfying while the piquant sausage adds that zesty pop that only pig can provide. I always scatter thinly sliced scallion over the top of the entire casserole immediately upon removing it from the oven. The residual heat from the dish wilts them a little so they’re not too strong. I mostly use the green part of the scallion as I find the white overpowers the subtle flavors of the cheeses. As with any breakfast casserole, it comes out of the oven all puffy and gorgeous but it does deflate quickly as it cools so get it out onto your table asap once it’s no longer baking. Last of all, this dish divides beautifully. I assemble two smaller dishes adding one more egg and more bread and milk or cream as needed. I make certain the bottom of each dish is covered completely with bread and each dish has sufficient liquid. I also finish with extra shredded parmesan on top. One then gets popped into the oven while the other is frozen for future enjoyment.
Brie & Sausage Casserole
- 1 8-ounce round brie
- 1 pound ground hot pork sausage
- 6-7 slices sandwich bread, I use Pepperidge Farm Hearty White
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more to finish off dish
- 7 large eggs, 8 if casserole is divided
- 3 cups whipping cream
- 2 cups fat-free milk plus additional if casserole is divided
- 2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
- 1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt, I use Goya Sazon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried mustard
- chopped green scallions, optional
- Trim rind from brie and discard. Cut cheese into small cubes and set aside.
- Cook sausage, stirring and breaking up sausage until it is cooked all the way through and is in crumbles. Drain well.
- Cut crusts from bread and place crusts evenly in bottom of 9×13 inch baking pan.
- Place bread slices evenly over crusts covering entire bottom.
- Evenly scatter sausage, then brie and parmesan over bread.
- In a large bowl whisk eggs until completely broken up. Add cream and milk and mix well.
- To the egg mixture add sage, seasoned salt and dry mustard mixing well.
- Pour egg mixture evenly over cheeses. Scatter additional parmesan over casserole, if desired, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 8 hours up to 2 days.
- Uncover dish and bake at 350° for one hour or until casserole is puffy and golden and set.
- Garnish with chopped scallion and serve immediately.