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The Potato is Your Friend
November 07, 2011

Breakfast Casserole


I went to a wedding recently, and on the RSVP card I was able to note that I'd like a gluten-free meal (so very kind of the bride). I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this. It's nice to know that you'll be able to eat something at a place where you may not know where gluten might be lurking.

However, I need to complain. Just a little.

At the actual wedding, dinner was a buffet. So for those of us who asked for GF meals, they were brought to us at our tables. The plate that was set down in front of me contained the following: a piece of salmon, a piece of steak, 3 mushrooms, 4 asparagus spears, and possibly a small amount of some other vegetable that I can't recall. Mostly though, it was a plate of meat (very good meat, I might add). While I'm not totally opposed to this, I feel like this plate was prepared with a lack of knowledge as to what gluten-free actually is (and for this, I blame the venue, and not the lovely bride).

Gluten-free does not mean Atkins diet. Gluten-free does not mean Paleo diet. While both of these diets avoid gluten, and you would probably be safe feeding someone with a gluten issue foods from these diets, they're not quite the same. Gluten-free, to get super simple about it, means no wheat, barley or rye. You know what's not on that list? POTATOES, RICE and CORN. Any one of those things, provided they aren't coated in flour or breadcrumbs, are totally a green light for folks who have gluten issues! So on that very considerate gluten-free dinner plate at my friend's wedding, I would have loved to have a little rice or some roasted potatoes. Just a little bit of something carb-y to go with the tasty meat and those 4 asparagus spears.

It just so happened that the day after this lovely wedding, I was attending a baby shower, and I needed to bring something gluten-free (mostly so I'd have something to eat). A breakfast casserole had been mentioned and looking through recipes online, it turns out a lot of them have bread or a crust or something gluten-y in them. So I went to Cook's Illustrated to see if they might have something, and lo and behold, I found the perfect recipe: Potato and Egg Casserole with Bacon and Cheddar! All of my favorite things in one dish and totally gluten-free. It definitely made up for the potatoes (or rice, or corn) that were missing from dinner.

Of course I'm going to share the recipe!


Potato and Egg Casserole with Bacon and Cheddar
Hardly adapted at all from Cook's Illustrated

INGREDIENTS:
1 Tbsp Butter, softened
2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes (about 3 large), peeled and sliced 1/4 thick
Salt

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 ounces of bacon (about 6 strips) cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
2 medium onions, chopped medium
6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed though a garlic press
2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
8 large eggs
3 cups half-and-half
8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 2/3 cups)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 ounce parmesan cheese, grated fine (about 1/2 cup)
Tobasco sauce or salsa for serving

DIRECTIONS:
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. With that one tbsp of butter, grease the bottom and sides of a 9x13" baking dish (or shallow dish of a similar size) and set aside.

Put the potatoes, 4 cups of water, and 1/2 tsp salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the bacon, onions, and 1/2 tsp of salt. Cook stirring frequently, until the onions have browned and the bacon is crisp, 20 to 25 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Remove from the heat. (At this point, there was a lot of fat in the pan. The recipe doesn't say to do this, but I ended up draining almost all but a couple of tablespoons of it.) Add the onion and bacon mixture to the bowl with the potatoes and fold gently, using a rubber spatula to combine. Cool for 10 minutes.

Whisk the eggs, half-and-half, cheddar, cayenne, black pepper, and 1 tsp salt together in a large bowl. Add the cooled potato mixture and fold gently to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and press gently into an even layer. Sprinkle with the parmesan. Bake until the eggs have set and the top is lightly browned, about 40 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with tobasco or your favorite salsa.

My Notes:
I used applewood smoked bacon from Trader Joe's for this, and it added a bit of sweetness to the whole thing. That bacon is also on the thick side, and I don't think it crisped up as much as it should have, but it still totally worked. I do kind of want to try it with thinner, non-applewood smoked bacon though. Just to compare.

The recipe notes that this is best when assembled, baked and eaten the same day, but you can do some of the work the night before. Both the potatoes and the onion/bacon mixture can be prepared and stored separately in air-tight containers in the fridge. The next morning, assemble everything and bake!