Every year for Christmas, my mother makes this casserole. It’s meant to be something you can out together the day before and put in the fridge overnight. Then you toss it in the oven Christmas morning, make some coffee, everybody opens presents, and breakfast is ready. She changes the recipe every time, so there isn’t “a recipe” just a general guideline of what all goes in it.
This year, my schedule is packed with work. Between two jobs since I’ve come home, I’ll typically go without a day off, or at most have a single day free in a week. I actually spent the two days before Christmas taking cat naps in my car between shifts since I was set for three shifts in a row. Thus I didn’t make it home for Christmas, and was left to my own devices to satisfy my casserole craving.
I hit the grocery store a few days ahead of time, braving the Christmas week crowds, feeling like Snake Pliskin in Escape from New York. I grabbed the needed ingredients: one red onion, green, red, and yellow bell peppers, a handful of jalapeño peppers, two Idaho potatoes, four garden tomatoes, a pound of bacon, a pound of ham, a pound of shredded cheddar cheese, a box of pancake mix, a dozen eggs, and whole milk. (note, I ended up with four pans of casserole and will be eating it for the next several days. You may not want that much, so adjust your ingredients as needed)
I’ll start by dicing up the various vegetables and setting them aside. I’ll layer the onions with some salt to start breaking them down. Then I’ll dice up the bacon and put it in a large wok over low heat. I’m trying to get all the fat out of the bacon, which I’ll use to sweat all the veggies when the bacon’s done.
Once the diced bacon starts to get crispy, we’ll pull it out using a slotted spoon, leaving the fat behind. Place the bacon on a plate lined with paper towels and let cool. Put the diced onion in the bacon fat and stir a few times to coat. We’ll sweat the onions for a bit before adding the next ingredients.
I put the diced potatoes in a Tupperware container and filled it with just enough water to cover the potatoes and put it in a microwave for five minutes. This way we won’t have to cook the spuds all the way in the pan.
The onion at this point should be cooked down a bit, so add in the bell peppers and jalapeño peppers and stir again. I also added a couple spoonfuls of minced garlic that I keep in a jar. Do as you feel here.
After the peppers have cooked down a bit, add in the tomatoes and potatoes. I should have removed the seeds and watery guts from the tomatoes before this because I ended up with way too much liquid in the pan. You could avoid this by cleaning out those tomatoes ahead of time, or do what I did and ladle off the extra juices into a coffee mug and drink it like a nice strong soup while cooking.
Finally, we’ll turn to the ham. I bought a quarter of a spiral sliced ham, so dicing it didn’t take more than a few seconds. Since the ham was pre-cooked I’m adding it here at the end. If your ham isn’t fully cooked you’ll want to cook it up with the bacon earlier. I’ll stir this whole mass together and let it cook for a few minutes before killing the heat.
In a large mixing bowl, bring together a small batch of your pancake mix according to the directions on the box. Add in three extra eggs to thin it out then pour it into a 9×13 casserole dish. Again, I’ve got several pans worth, so I did this for each pan. You probably don’t need that much because you want variety in your diet. I, on the other hand, am a savage. Put it into a 350 degree oven for about 3-5 minutes, basically long enough for it to firm up a little. Remove the dish and add on top your veggie/ham mix. At this point, you can wrap the pan up with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight in your fridge or you can move immediately to the next step. I didn’t really have time to make this ahead, but you do you.
Back in our mixing bowl take four large eggs and beat with a whisk till they turn a slightly paler color. Add in a cup of whole milk and half of our cheese. Beat thoroughly. Pour the whole thing over your casserole. Shake the pans a little to let everything settle in. The sprinkle over with your remaining cheese and the bacon crumbles. Put back into the oven.
Based on how dense your mix turns out to be and how even your oven heats, you may get some variance in how long this takes to cook. Mine took about thirty minutes until it looked mostly solid. Eggs will continue to cook when you take them out if the heat, so we don’t want to wait until this is completely done, otherwise it’ll be overcooked when served.
Let it cool for about ten to fifteen minutes, then cut into square pieces. You can serve this with sour cream or eat as is. I highly recommend playing some Harry Potter movies in the background and drinking a strong cup of coffee, because that’s how I had mine and I loved it.
This doesn’t need to wait for Christmas, nor does it have to be a breakfast thing. Overall, I think it’s a pretty solid meal and like I said, this hour of cooking work is gonna feed me for a week.
Either way, have a great holiday week and a wonderful new year.