What you want on Christmas morning - a house that effortlessly fills itself with joyous sounds and delicious aromas. What you usually get on Christmas morning - towers of wrapping paper, hermetically sealed toys that can be opened by no human, and a kitchen that demands way too much of your attention.
I can't help you with the wrapping paper or packaging, but I can make your holiday breakfast a little easier. I'm a big believer that Christmas morning is meant to be spent under the tree, not at the stove. And yet I still want the house to fill itself with delicious aromas.
My solution? A do-ahead breakfast casserole that I can prep the night before, then just pop into the oven to bake unattended while gift insanity commences. So this year I created an indulgent dish that is equal parts casserole, hash browns, fruit crumble and French toast. Because.... why not? It's Christmas.
This recipe makes plenty so it's easy to feed a crowd, particularly if you have guests joining the fun closer to brunch. The leftovers are easily reheated. I like it served with a drizzle of maple syrup. But if you'd rather take this in a savory direction, add chopped ham when combining the potatoes and cheese.
FRENCH TOAST HASH CRUMBLE CASSEROLE
Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes (15 minutes active)
2/3 cup half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 slices sandwich bread
4 cups (about 1 pound) frozen shredded potatoes
3 large apples, peeled, cored and diced
8 ounces (2 cups) shredded cheese
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 tablespoon cinnamon
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, thyme, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Coat a deep 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Arrange 4 slices of the bread in an even layer over the bottom of the pan.
In a large bowl, toss together the potatoes, apples and cheese. Spread the mixture evenly over the bread. Pour half of the egg mixture evenly over the potatoes and apples, pressing it with a fork to help it absorb evenly. Top the potato mixture with the remaining 4 slices of bread. Pour the remaining egg mixture over the bread and press gently with a fork to help it absorb.
In the same bowl used to mix the potatoes and apples, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon. Use your hands to mix the ingredients together until evenly blended. Spread the crumble topping evenly over the bread. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until morning.
When ready to bake, heat the oven to 375 F. Uncover the baking dish and bake for 1 hour, or until lightly browned and crisp.
Nutrition information per serving: 530 calories; 250 calories from fat (47 percent of total calories); 28 g fat (15 g saturated; 0.5 g trans fats); 200 mg cholesterol; 57 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 26 g sugar; 15 g protein; 350 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM-Hirsch . Email him at jhirsch(at)ap.org