English Muffin Breakfast Bake

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This one’s for my Mom, who loves bacon and eggs with toast more than anyone I know. In fact she even claims it has healing powers. Nervous about getting on a plane? Have a breakfast sandwich. One too many drinks last night? The bread and grease from the bacon will settle your stomach. I am not fully on board with this theory, but she swears by it.

And while she has strict preferences– the toast should be golden brown, the bacon should be very crispy, the eggs should never be “wet” — I still think my Mom would approve of my spin on her favorite breakfast.

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A cross between a soufflé, a frittata, and a bread pudding, this English Muffin Breakfast Bake combines everyday breakfast ingredients to make a brunch masterpiece. (Think eggs, toasted bread, maple-roasted bacon and lots of cheddar cheese.) It’s a little more time consuming than your average egg sandwich, but SO worth it. And I also confirmed, as my Mom claims, that it does wonders after a long night out.

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Besides being delicious and totally over the top, this is also a very practical recipe. The ingredients are all things you can find at any grocery store- a dozen eggs, a pack of English muffins, a pound of bacon, a quart of milk, etc. – and the recipe doesn’t require any special equipment. It’s what I call a great “vacation” recipe- something you can make without your usual kitchen setup (and definitely something to make when you are happily eating lots of  “vacation food.”)

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If you want to double the recipe for a large group, I would recommend making two separate batches (in two baking dishes) rather than using one larger dish or pan. And if you plan on needing a bacon and eggs elixir the morning after, you can assemble this the night before and bake it off in the morning. OR, make it for your Mom this weekend! If she’s anything like mine, she will be very happy you did.

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English Muffin Breakfast Bake

serves 6-8

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
12 slices good-quality, lean bacon
2 tablespoons maple syrup
6 English muffins, such as Thomas’s
12 large eggs
2 ½ cups whole milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (2 cups, lightly packed)

Arrange two racks evenly spaced in the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and generously grease the bottom and sides a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking dish with the butter.

Place an ovenproof baking rack on a sheet pan and place the strips of bacon in a single layer on the rack. (If you don’t have a rack, just place the bacon directly on the sheet pan.) Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the bacon has begun to brown. Remove the pan and carefully brush the strips of bacon with maple syrup. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes, until golden brown. Remove the bacon and allow to drain on a plate lined with a paper towel. When cool enough to handle, roughly chop the bacon and set aside.

Meanwhile, cut the English muffins into 1” cubes. (Do not halve them horizontally as you would normally for the toaster.) Spread the cubes on a sheet pan and bake, with the bacon, for 15 minutes, until lightly browned.

While the bacon and English muffins are in the oven, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper in large bowl.

To assemble, sprinkle half of the bacon, 1 tablespoon of the chives, and 1 cup of the cheese (in that order) onto the bottom of the baking dish. Add the English muffin cubes on top in one even layer. Carefully pour the egg mixture into the pan, pressing down lightly to make sure all the muffin cubes are moistened. Top with remaining bacon, cheese and chives. Wrap well and refrigerate for at least one hour, or overnight.

Before baking, lower the oven (or set the oven) to 350 degrees. If the dish has been in the refrigerator overnight, let it come to room temperature for 15 minutes before baking. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until puffed and cooked through. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Shaved Carrot and Asparagus Salad

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Last Saturday morning I went to the farmer’s market in New York’s Union Square, planning to check out what fresh green vegetables were finally in season and then decide on a side dish for an impromptu dinner party my boyfriend Joe and I were cooking at his apartment that night. Nice try, me! The market was still largely in winter hibernation mode, with lots of carrots, potatoes, mystery apples from last fall, and a lot of baked goods. It was important to try some of those to see if they might qualify as side dishes.

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The menu needed something light and bright, so I went with carrots and decided to make a fresh, lemony carrot salad.   I also cheated a little and pretended I found asparagus there, because you might already be able to find it, and because there was enough in the grocery store to convince me it’s in season somewhere.

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This is an easy, versatile and absolutely delicious side dish. The shaved carrots and asparagus are tossed in a simple lemon juice and olive oil vinaigrette, which softens them slightly. The cumin in the dressing gives the salad an earthy, Moroccan air, and the mint, goat cheese and pistachios turn a simple bowl of vegetables into a dish bursting with flavor and lots different textures in each bite. If a vegetable side could be a showstopper, this would definitely be it.

The only real work here is the vegetable prep, which takes a little patience, but is so worth it, especially because you can make this whole dish ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge until dinner. (Then just add the mint, goat cheese, and pistachios before serving.)

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While the asparagus is shaved with a simple vegetable peeler, there are a few different ways you can cut the carrots. You can spiralize them, you can cut them by hand with a sharp knife (a little time consuming, but works!) or use a julienne peeler.  I bought one last week on Amazon for $10, and it was a total revelation.  If you like to make zucchini noodles, butternut squash noodles, or other vegetables cut into long strips (cucumber! radish! potato?) you definitely need this thing. The blade is a regular peeler on one side, and julienne on the other, and is much sharper than other peelers I’ve used. Just be careful with your fingers!

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Like many of my recipes, this salad serves 4-6 people, but you can easily double it for larger groups. Just get a friend to help with the vegetable prepping! (Winkie promised he would help, but he had trouble using the peeler.)

Shaved Carrot and Asparagus Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ pound carrots
  • 1 pound asparagus stalks
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint, plus more for serving
  • ½ cup shelled pistachios, plus more for serving
  • ½ cup crumbled goat cheese

Directions

  1. Using a sharp knife, cut the carrots into long, thin matchsticks. If you have a julienne peeler, or Spiralizer, this will be even easier. Place in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Trim 1-inch from the bottom of the asparagus stalks. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the asparagus into thin ribbons. (I lay the stalks flat against a cutting board, and holding the asparagus at the thick end of the stalk, shave through the flowery head.) Cut any remaining pieces of asparagus stalk you weren’t able to reach with the peeler into 1-inch pieces and add them to the bowl.
  3. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin. Pour over the carrots and asparagus and toss well.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to six hours. When ready to serve, add the mint and pistachios, and toss well. Transfer to a serving dish and top with additional chopped mint, pistachios, and the goat cheese. Serve immediately.