New York Breakfast Casserole

Inspired by two of New York's favourite breakfasts, this egg and bagel casserole served with a side of smoked salmon is the perfect breakfast for laid-back weekends.

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Introduction

I'm not sure how it is where you live, but in New York City there are few more popular breakfasts than (1) an egg and cheese on a roll or (2) cream cheese and smoked salmon on a bagel. You can get either made to order frighteningly cheap anywhere-the deli, the bodega, some bars, the average corner shop, where you can stock up on beer, lottery tickets, or cat litter along with breakfast. The ran­domness of these transactions is one of my favorite things about New York.

Does New York need an all-purpose breakfast vehicle like the one below? Arguably, no. But I came up with it one day as an attempt at a Yankee spin on the kinds of breakfast casseroles I've had in the South-usually with hash browns, lots of cheese, and bacon or ham; and, yes, they are insanely delicious-and got back to that corner-store breakfast (minus the pack of cigarettes and bottle of Vitaminwater). I found it to be better balanced than your average egg sandwich-which always feels too heavy on the bread for me-and was delighted to discover that, in the oven, bits of cream cheese puff and bronze like tiny marshmallows. Plus, as I always prefer, it serves a crowd, and can be assembled in advance, even the night before it is needed.

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

about 550g bagels cut into 2cm cubes (see cooking note)
225g cream cheese, chilled, cut into irregular small bits
¼ medium red onion, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced (quarter-moons)
275g tomatoes, preferably cherry tomatoes, cut in half, or quartered if on the large side
8 large eggs
550ml milk
1 tsp table salt
freshly ground black pepper
capers, for serving
smoked salmon or bacon, for serving

Essential kit

You will need: a 23 x 32cm tin (or other 3.75 litre ovenproof dish).

Instructions

Prepare casserole Spread a third of the bagel cubes in a 23 x 32cm tin (or other 3.75 litre ovenproof dish, if necessary). Dot the bagels with a third of the cream-cheese bits, and mix in the red onion and cherry toma­ toes. Repeat in two more alternating layers. Whisk eggs with milk, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Pour the egg mixture over bagel-and-cheese mixture, and feel free to turn any seedy sides of the bagel croutons faceup, in order to pretty up the dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refriger­ ate overnight.

To cook The next morning - I mean, whenever you are forced from bed - remove dish from the fridge and preheat your oven to 180°C/ fan 160°/Gas 4. Bake on a tray, uncovered, in the middle of the oven until it has puffed, turned golden brown, and cooked through (a knife inserted into the center and rotated slightly shouldn't release any liquid), for 1 to 1¼ hours. Let it rest 10 minutes before serving.

 

To serve Serve in big scoops with a sprinkle of capers and a side of smoked salmon. Or bacon.

Cooking note Bagel sizes tend to be very inconsistent, making it difficult to estimate the num­ber you will need. You might need up to 12 frozen bagels or merely four or five large ones. Do your best to eyeball what you'll need and if you overestimate, well, nobody ever complained about a freezer full of bagels.

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