The Perfect Christmas Day Breakfast

Homemade sausage and french toast praline casserole.  You’re welcome.

Homemade Sausage: Okay, there are two ways to go with this. You can begin with about 2 pounds of pork butt and 1/2 pound of pork fat (you can buy fatback) and grind it coarsely in your meat grinder. (It will be much easier if the meat is very, very cold.) We have a meat grinder that belonged to Hazel’s grandmother—it’s manual, weighs about thirty pounds and cleaning it is a pain, but whenever I suggest we get a new electric one, you would think I’d suggested we go spin on Grammy’s grave. When I lived in Chicago, I most certainly did not have a meat grinder. So you can go with two and a half pounds of ground pork; it will still be delicious. Season with kosher salt (about t2 teaspoons) 1 and 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper, 2 tsp brown sugar, 2 tsp fresh sage—cut as finely as you can get it, 1 tsp. Fresh rosemary (same) and a nice grating of fresh nutmeg you want about 1/2 tsp. Eyeball it. You can also add cayenne pepper here—if you have any doubt at all—add a pinch and fry up a tiny patty to see if the heat is right. I do not. If I’m serving with eggs, Killian adds hot sauce anyway, and I find that all I taste is hot when I add it. Now, my secret weapon. This is optional but takes it into the stratosphere of yumminess-3/4 tsp liquid smoke. Combine thoroughly and in a perfect world let it set overnight in your fridge. I know, life isn’t perfect, so if need be—proceed. Portion into small parties (I use a tablespoon as a measure) and fry over medium heat. You may need a little slick of oil for the first batch. You want them just cooked through—not fried until fluffy and dry in the middle. Yuck. These can also be cooked ahead and then warmed—covered with foil in a low oven. Praline Pecan French Toast Bake: 1 loaf of French bread—crust sawed off and cut into 1 inch slices Baking spray 1/2 cups half and half 6 eggs 1 tablespoon white sugar 2 tsp vanilla 1 tablespoon light brown sugar 4 tablespoons butter 1 cup chopped pecans Whisk together cream, eggs, vanilla, speck salt, white sugar. Spray a 9×12 baking dish with baking spray. Pour about half of the custard base into the pan and set the bread slices into it and then pour the remaining custard over. Cover with cling wrap and weight it with a smaller baking dish—leave overnight in fridge. The next morning, put the brown sugar into a saucepan and cook over low heat until it begins to melt and lose its graininess. Add the butter, when melted, stir in the pecans. BE careful—nothing burns like caramel—Nothing. Take your casserole out of the fridge and unwrap—pour the caramel and nuts over the top (weighting it down has meant that the bread doesn’t come up to the top and given you room for your sweet sludge of scalding…) Put the casserole into an unheated oven and turn the heat up to 325 degrees. You don’t ever ever want to put a glass pan straight from the fridge into a hot oven. That is asking for a shattered dish and an oven floor full of raw eggs and bread, a bad business all around…

Braised Red Cabbage

Braised Red Cabbage: 1 head red cabbage—very finely shredded 2 tart-sweet apples (Braeburn or the like) 2 tablespoons butter 1 tablespoon brown sugar 2 tablespoons cider vinegar Finely shredded cabbage is a problem. Throw any and all available kitchen technology at it. I use a food processor. You could use a mandolin—but, for the love of God do not skip using the hand guard. Grate the apple. Melt the butter in a large non-cast iron skillet. Toss in the cabbage and stir to coat. Keep the heat fairly brisk, but stir often. If it seems in danger of scorching, toss in 1/8 cup of water. Once the cabbage is fairly soft but still a wee bit toothsome, add the apple. Allow to cook for another 2-3 minutes and then stir in the brown sugar and vinegar. Toss thoroughly. This side dish has the distinction of seeming both very Germanic and yet, depending upon what it is served with, very old school English. It adds a nice jot of color to the plate and spanks your taste buds just a little bit. Very nice dish to have at your disposal.