Monday, February 10, 2014

Make Ahead Breakfast Casserole #1 (Hamburger & Potato)

I have recently discovered two rather epic breakfast casseroles that have gone over like hotcakes in this household, including some enthusiastic company reviews. (Find the second casserole recipe here.)

I don't know about the rest of you, but breakfast is kind of a constant struggle to figure out in this house. We just don't do much in the bread category, which knocks out pancakes, waffles, toast, bagels, English muffins, and what all ever other things folks eat. It leaves potatoes, meat, and eggs. Oh, and biscuits and gravy. I guess we do do bread sometimes.  :-) This isn't a particular hardship in itself, exactly, because we like these things, but I'm guessing I'm not alone in not being a huge fan of spending an hour cooking breakfast. Biscuits and gravy actually do take an hour. Eggs and bacon- and probably some hash browns to go with- don't take as long, but it's a lot of dishes to dirty up just to serve a simple breakfast. Also, eggs and bacon are boring on their own, even though technically they're good! I can eat them for about one day before I'm ready for something more interesting.

Some days I do make the whole biscuits and gravy deal, but I was getting a little tired of making it and was hoping to find some make ahead dishes that actually taste good. I decided to try a variation on Tater Tot Casserole. Not only did it turn out awesome, but you can make it the night before and pop it in the oven in the morning. It takes an hour to cook, but that either frees you up for an hour of other things before breakfast or, if you're like me, go back to bed while it cooks. Best company breakfast EVER.

Right off the bat I had some variations to make, because not only do I not like tater tots particularly much, but I wasn't interested in having to buy a product to make the dish when I have home grown potatoes sitting in the larder. Also- and I'm sorry to get on my high horse, here- but seriously, when I looked up the ingredients list (just to be fair instead of assuming they were sketchy), I found this:

Potatoes, Vegetable oil (sunflower, cottonseed, soybean and/or canola), salt, yellow corn flour, onions, dextrose, disodium hydrogen, pyrophosphate, natural flavoring.

Um- really? I had assumed that at the worst they'd have was oils in them that I don't want to eat, but dextrose? Disodium hydrogen? Pyrophosphate? Natural flavoring? I usually equate this with MSG, although it can and does cover a lot of other little nastys as well.

Maybe this isn't the end of the world, but if your third grader can't pronounce it, the rule of thumb is not to eat it. And none of those funky things can be produced in your kitchen, which is another food guideline that's easy to go by when you don't know what every little word means. And I've already gone into the non-benefits of soy. And lastly-- these are potatoes. Fried potatoes. That shouldn't require more ingredients than potatoes and oil, and maybe some sea salt. Another popular rule of thumb for better quality shopping is to scrap purchases that have more than five ingredients (or three, if you're ambitious). Tater tots don't make the cut from any of these angles.

Okay, that's the end of my little rabbit trail.  Suffice to say that I wanted to make the dish from absolute scratch, which meant figuring out a different form of potatoes. That was pretty easy, really: I went with diced potatoes. If you don't have time to waste on that, there are diced potatoes on the market, and I've bought these ones from Azure Standard. Ingredients: Organic Potatoes. Ahhh, that's more like it. Now I just dice garden potatoes in bulk and freeze them so they're ready to use like any store bought options.

On to the recipe.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb. hamburger
2 t. salt
2 t. garlic powder
2 t. onion powder
1 lb. diced potatoes
1 can cream of chicken soup (recipe here)
1 cup cream or at least whole milk

Brown up the hamburger until fully cooked, adding in the spices.

At the same time, heat up some bacon grease or butter in a skillet and dump your potatoes in. Cover them with a lid and let them sit on medium while you cook the hamburger. They don't need to be cooked through, they just need a head start so they'll cook faster in the morning.

Spread the hamburger evenly in the bottom of a 9x9 pan.

Spread the potatoes on top.

Whisk together your cream soup and cream, and pour evenly over the meat and potatoes, spreading it to all corner so everything is covered.

Cover with foil and store in the fridge overnight.

Bake @350 for 60 minutes with or without foil, depending on your preference. We kind of like it without, since it gives more "character" to the top layer of food.

This sounds pretty plain, but the spices in the hamburger and soup make it surprisingly tasty, and friendly to just about any palate.  Enjoy!

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