A recipe just in time for Easter Brunch! Oh wait. Whoops. Okay, so I'm a day late and probably more than a dollar short... however, this is more than timely for your Mother's Day brunch. You have a whole month to practice, not that you will need it. ((You know, someday, I will have my shit together enough to actually plan these things out. Well, maybe. Unless and until that happens, we are all just going to have to adapt.))
Anyway. This breakfast/brunch dish is undoubtedly one of the most popular things I make. I made it for the first time for a brunch party about a year ago and it essentially evaporated into thin air. When I grabbed the pan to rinse it out, I got yelled at not to so that my lovely friend D could pick at the stuff left on the edges. It is just that good. It, however, does not photograph well. Sorry. You're just going to have to trust me and about 25 of my friends that I have made it for on various occasions.
I don't really know what to call it. ((I referred to this previously and still don't have the answer.)) What I call it is Italian Sausage-Sun-Dried Tomato-Spinach Egg Bake. I don't know that the term "egg bake" is used in any other part of the country than where I am from because I've drawn a lot of strange looks from people when I say it. I don't think it is a quiche. It might be a frittata? A casserole? A hot dish? ((It doesn't get any more Midwestern than a hot dish! What the fuck is a hot dish anyway? There's no such thing as a "cold dish." Well, I don't think so anyway. Maybe there is.)) Semantics aside, this is really good and you should make it.
What you need to serve 6-8:
1 lb. Italian sausage ((you will find this in a tube-like thing by the bacon usually))
4 cups frozen hash-brown potatoes, thawed
4 oz. (1 cup) shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup fresh spinach
1/4 cup sliced marinated sun-dried tomatoes ((you find these by the condiments, usually by the pickles))
4 oz. (1 cup) shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/8 teaspoon Pepper
2 tablespoons shredded fresh Parmesan cheese
Before we move on, let me say that I ALWAYS double this. Occasionally, I double it and put it into one large glass baking dish to make one monster one or you can make two smaller ones. Up to you.
What to do:
Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a glass baking dish with cooking spray. ((You can use whatever size dish you want. I say go big or go out to brunch.))
Brown the sausage in a large pan on the stove over medium-high heat. You are going to want to continually keep crumbling it so it is in small pieces. Uncooked sausage is disgusting. Sorry. I occasionally have used turkey sausage which makes this lower in fat and no one has ever known the difference. Brown it until it is ... well... BROWN. Meaning get the pink out of it. Take it off the heat and drain off the excess fat. ((Don't put grease/fat down your disposal or sink. Trust me, the Queen of Kitchen Sink Problems on this. Put it into an empty margarine container or something like that and then throw it away. Your pipes can't take it.))
Mix together in a medium bowl the thawed hash browns and the cheddar cheese. Take HALF of that and put it in the bottom of the baking dish. Layer the cooked sausage on top of that. ((All of it.)) Then layer on your sliced up sun-dried tomatoes and your torn-up spinach ((you could use frozen spinach that has been thawed but for the love of God, just use the fresh stuff-- just wash it well. Spinach tends to be dirty.)) Regarding the tomatoes, these come packed in oil. Drain them and then put them on a paper towel and blot them to get the excess oil off. Then put the rest of the potato and cheddar on top of that. The final layer at this stage is all the mozzarella cheese. I'm not going to judge you if you use more than a cup.
((At this point you should probably say, "Excuse me, Jules, but this "egg bake" has a disturbing lack of eggs." Under your breath you will probably say, "This idiot should call it a cheese bake. Potato bake. Not-enough-eggs bake." Yeah, well, hold on, we are getting there, smart-ass.)) In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, milk and salt and pepper. It is not going to look like very much, it's okay. Pour that over your layered concoction and try to do it evenly. Cover with foil and bake for an hour.
After an hour, uncover and spread on the Parmesan. I actually laughed when I saw it said two tablespoons. I usually use a handful. Put it back in the oven and bake it UNcovered for another 15 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and the edges are brown and bubbly. ((Keep in mind that if you doubled it in one pan it is going to take longer, but NOT double the time. You just need to check it every 5 minutes if you double it.)) Let stand for 5 or so minutes before cutting and serving. It would be pretty if you put some parsley on top, but let's face it, at this point you're starving.
You can also make this the night before, refrigerate it, and then bake it the following morning... This keeps amazingly well and is definitely better the second day.
Let me say one thing about measurements with this kind of thing. It really doesn't effing matter. Use more cheese. Use less. Leave out the sausage. Add more tomatoes. Double the spinach. Do whatever you feel like. If you screw up and don't put the layers on in the listed order, who cares? ((I did that... I forgot to add the sausage and then put it on top of the second hash brown and cheese layer.)) It just doesn't matter. Quit trying to be so damn perfect and just try something. <---Might apply to the rest of your life outside the kitchen too. #Endgrouptherapy.