Friday, November 8, 2013

Make-Ahead Migas Breakfast Casserole

Now that Ethan is in high school the bus picks him up before the sun. In the interest of smoother running mornings I've been trying to utilize a lot of breakfast casseroles that can be baked Sunday night & re-heated throughout the week.

I wanted to come up with a casserole take on our favorite variety of migas inspired scrambled eggs. I knew I would need to solve the dry eggs issue in a casserole that was intended to be reheated in the microwave each morning. I remembered that my Aunt Virginia (a caterer) once told me the key to keeping eggs from drying out on a buffet was cream cheese. I've now made this casserole twice & it seems to be the current favorite.

Please be advised if you use a lower fat milk you may have issues with the casserole getting watery on you. The half & half is there in order to create an emulsion. For an explanation of why achieving emulsion is important in egg dishes please see Perfect Scrambled Eggs Made Easy.

For serving I cut a square, re-heat it in the microwave, then top it with taco sauce & sour cream.
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Make Ahead Migas Breakfast Casserole

Chunky Filling Items
10 corn tortillas cut into pieces & fried
Ham I like to use a lot
1 onion, chopped fine
1 green bell pepper, chopped fine
1 can ortega chilis
2 cups of shredded cheese, I like cheddar, jack or a combination of the two

Egg Mixture
1 8 oz package cream cheese softened
8 eggs added 1 at a time
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups half & half or whipping cream
2 green onions (optional)
a handful of fresh cilantro (optional)

Remove cream cheese from refrigerator so that it can begin to soften.

Cut 10 corn tortillas into strips. Fry the strips in batches, in oil for about 2 minutes flipping them over half way through (they'll fry best if you wait to fry until your oil is between 350 and 375 degrees fahrenheit.) Drain fried tortilla strips on paper towels. To skip this step you could substitute tortilla chips but they will be much saltier, and I suspect greasier and containing more preservatives. Or you could use un-fried tortillas, but they will soften & disintegrate in the casserole giving a very different texture.
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For breakfast ham I have used several different types depending on what was available at my market at the time. Sometimes I can find small sliced boneless hams that have been shrink wrapped, these are very easy to work with. Last night I had a ready-to-eat picnic ham, it was difficult to work with because of the fat cap & trimming around the bone. I wouldn't go that route again. Sometimes ham steaks are available in my meat department they are also quite easy to work with. Failing the above I get ham from the service deli. I have them slice it on the thickest setting & I get 2-3 slices depending on the size of the ham. The ham from the deli is the easiest option, but depending on the season other hams may be a better price. 

Place ham slices in a large skillet and heat them up, allowing them to brown a little bit on each side. Browning the ham seems to activate the flavors of the ham. Try an experiment & eat a piece of ham before browning, then eat a piece that has been browned. HUGE flavor difference! 
Remove the ham to a cutting board, stack & cut into bite-size pieces.

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Add a bit of olive oil or butter to the skillet you used for the ham & saute the onion & bell pepper until soft. I like to use a bamboo paddle or wooden spoon and scrape up the brown left in the bottom of the pan from the ham. Ham flavored veggies is a good thing. When the veggies are soft, mix in 1 small can of mild Ortega chiles. I didn't add chiles to my 1st casserole & I felt it really needed this specific flavor.
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Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick spray. You can mix all the chunky filling ingredients with the cheese in a bowl & dump into the casserole dish. Or save yourself the washing of a bowl & add each ingredient to the casserole dish as you prep them, then take a pair of tongs & mix them right in the casserole dish.
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Now for the egg mixture. You need to incorporate the cream cheese throughout the eggs, you want to form an emulsion, mix them evenly, not chunks or bits. There are 2 ways to accomplish this.
1) Cream the cheese in a mixer & when it is soft add the eggs 1 at a time mixing until creamed into the cheese (1st photo is after all eggs are added), then add salt, and slowly pour in the half & half or cream while the mixer is running.
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2) If you have a really good blender like a Blendtec or a Vitamix, you can mix up everything in your blender.
I have made this casserole both ways & both work.
Because I DO have a blendtec blender and I know it will blend evenly I also add 2 green onions cut in half to the blender jar. They gave great flavor. Last night I used the creaming mixture method but I wanted to incorporate some leftover cilantro I had in the fridge so I blended my half & half with the cilantro before adding it to the egg mixture. The cilantro was very subtle but if you have some handy, go ahead & add it.
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Pour the egg mixture over the chunky filling ingredients in the casserole dish. I take a pair of tongs & lift up bits of the filling from the bottom in order to allow the egg mixture to flow in and around the ingredients so that I don't end up with chunky stuff on the bottom & eggs on the top.
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You could top the casserole with additional 1/2 cup of cheese if desired I don't find it necessary.

Cover with foil Bake in a preheated 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 1hour 10 min. Remove foil & continue baking for 10 more minutes.

If serving hot allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting & serving. Or allow to cool, cover with foil & store in the refrigerator for future use.
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