Genius Recipes

A Make-Ahead, Totally Genius Holiday Breakfast Casserole

December  6, 2017

Of course make-ahead breakfast casseroles are genius. They let you knock out all the thinking and doing the day before, when you have time and space to putter. And they feed a hungry crowd much more smoothly than flipping fried eggs or rolling omelettes for eight (don’t do it).

The trouble is: In their ingenious practicality, these casseroles can often feel utilitarian at best. They’re a breakfast you can cut into neat rectangles, with none of the dramatic pouf of a Dutch baby or tactile glee of a pull-apart monkey bread.

This particular casserole, however, is spilling over with glee. It comes from celebrity comfort food lover/known prankster Chrissy Teigen's cookbook Cravings, and she injects some very welcome doses of fun. The most important of these is the topping, which is salted, buttered, toasted Frosted Flakes. You will want to palm this up like trail mix. No surprise Teigen writes, “I am so proud of this dish I could cry.”

This topping takes a cue from the tuna noodle casserole genre of yore, but layers in a modern sensibility that recognizes our sweet breakfasts are better with salt and brown butter and, as it turns out, crunchy, malted Frosted Flakes.

I did my natural foodist due diligence here and it appears that the only unpronounceable ingredients are pretty much just vitamins. But if you prefer an ever more wholesome brand, go nuts—just make sure that the salt and sweet are in good balance, and there’s a bit of fat to help the bits get extra brown and crispy. Or maybe there’s another classic you have a deep affection for: Cracklin’ Oat Bran, Crispix, Life, perhaps? I think Teigen would encourage you to embrace your inner crazed-kid-in-the-cereal-aisle.

I am so proud of this dish I could cry.
Chrissy Teigen

Her second blast of fun is quite a generous amount (ahem, half a cup) of rum. Teigen positions this as a sort of hair of the dog after a rowdy night and—even after a tame one—this booziness is delicious for adults who dig a saucy rum cake or Dark & Stormy (raises glass).

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But if you’re serving this to a mixed crowd on Christmas morning—children, nondrinkers, etc.—don’t worry: While it's true that inevitably not every drop of the alcohol will bake out, this recipe has enough other good stuff going that I can verify that it tastes just as good with little or no booze at all. Namely: those classic cozy wintry flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and brown sugar.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“The little bit of rum will certainly be a surprise and get people's attention. Oh, yeah, I have this one printed and ready to use. This will be fun. Thank you! ”
— brenda

And of course, there's the sassy topping. With enough of that, your crowd would probably be happy to eat the presents.

Photos by Bobbi Lin

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thank you to editor/stylist/professional genius-hunter Ali Slagle for this one!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • rox L
    rox L
  • JoAnne Lingo
    JoAnne Lingo
  • Ruth-Anne
  • Duglas
  • brenda
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


rox L. December 11, 2017
Love the idea of two casseroles. Thank you Brenda for sharing as well. Can't wait to make both recipes.
JoAnne L. December 7, 2017
I adore Chrissy but this casserole doesn’t appeal. For years I made a stuffed French toast casserole that was sooo easy, also made the night before and disappeared in a flash!
It’s called Stuffed French Toast a la Sally Jesse Rafael. Yes! The talk show host of red glasses fame! She owned a B & B for years and swore that it was her most popular recipe. The stuffing is cubes of CREAM CHEESE! You don’t actually stuff it, just layer cubed bread with cubed cream cheese, pour a dozen beaten eggs laced with milk, vanilla and REAL maple syrup over the top, let sit in the fridge overnight, bake in the morning, dust with powdered sugar if you’re feeling fancy and serve with warm maple syrup and fruit on the side-GONE!!!
Ruth-Anne December 6, 2017
Could you make this with challah or would it be too mushy?
Kristen M. December 6, 2017
I think it would be great! It would absorb the custard best if the challah was a bit stale (or if you toasted the cubes).
brenda December 9, 2017
Ruth-Anne, I often make breakfast casseroles with homemade challah, and it works great. If you want to toast it before assembling, you can, but you don't have to.
Duglas December 6, 2017
Do you actually bake it the day before and then heat it up in the morning?
brenda December 6, 2017
Assemble it the night before, and bake it in the morning. Have it hot and fresh. :)
brenda December 6, 2017
This and more tips are on the actual recipe page using the link at the bottom of the ingredients list.
brenda December 6, 2017
Oh, and maybe with this, instead of maple syrup. Hey, it has fresh orange juice in it. It's a health food!
Orange Rum Sauce:
1/2 cup sugar.
2 tablespoons cornstarch.
Pinch salt.
1 medium orange, juiced and strained, combined with water to yield 1 cup.
1/2 teaspoon orange zest.
1/4 cup rum.
1 tablespoon butter.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Kristen M. December 6, 2017
That's the spirit, Brenda! Sounds delicious.
brenda December 6, 2017
Spirit, indeed! I see what you did there. ;)
brenda December 6, 2017
Okay, 16 pieces. Everyone loves the sweet potato and spinach casserole, so they'll need room on their plate for both. If they want a second piece, I won't judge. Maybe I'll want one, too. ;)
Jeanne V. December 8, 2017
brenda, would you share your sweet potato spinach recipe?
brenda December 9, 2017
Yes, Jeanne, for you I will share. :)

Sweet Potato & Spinach Breakfast Strata
Serves 4 to 6
1 medium sweet potato (2 cups cubed) (Can use more, and I do. I like to use almost double this amount. Otherwise, we fight over the sweet potato chunks. LOL)
1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
2 cups spinach, shredded
8 ounces stale whole wheat sourdough bread (7 to 8 thick slices)
4 ounces shredded fontina, divided
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon minced chives
5 large eggs
1 1/2 cup whole milk

Prep this strata the night before.
Preheat oven to 400˚F. Peel and cut the sweet potato into 1/4-inch cubes. Toss them with the onion, olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet or roasting pan, and roast until the sweet potatoes are tender, 18 to 20 minutes.

Place the spinach in a large bowl, and put hot sweet potatoes and onions on top. Stir, letting spinach wilt just slightly from the heat of the roasted vegetables. Cube the bread and add to the bowl, along with 2 ounces of cheese, the rosemary and the chives. Toss the mixture until well combined.

Lightly grease a 9x9-inch (or 2 1/2 quart) baking dish. Put the bread mixture into the pan, evenly distributing the spinach and sweet potatoes.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pour over the bread mixture, pressing down on the bread to submerge it completely in the egg mixture. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, remove strata from refrigerator and preheat the oven to 350˚F. Bake the strata for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle with remaining 2 ounces of cheese, and continue to bake uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes until the strata has puffed and the cheese is browning. Serve with an extra sprinkle of chives.
brenda December 9, 2017
If you serve multiple breakfast casseroles, you will find this makes more than six servings, more like 8 or 9. It's a favorite at our house, and we associate it with Christmas. It's very veggie for a strata, so it works well for a brunch dish. Could even use it for a lunch.
brenda December 6, 2017
Actually, I would cut this into a dozen pieces, not eight. I make several breakfast casseroles to serve together, including a couple that are very veggie. This would be great as the 'sweet' one, especially with some fresh fruit on the side. The little bit of rum will certainly be a surprise and get people's attention. Oh, yeah, I have this one printed and ready to use. This will be fun. Thank you!
Sam December 6, 2017
A boozy, sugary breakfast. *smh*
brenda December 6, 2017
Sam can't believe he never thought of this before! LOL
laurie December 6, 2017
Good lord- a cup of sugar and 3 cups of frosted flakes.. that's dessert not breakfast!
brenda December 6, 2017
That's why you share it with seven other people. :)
Kristen M. December 6, 2017
I said it was fun, right? ;) And honestly, it doesn't taste very sweet, with the custard and rum and salt and spices there to balance it. It comes out to 2 tablespoons of light brown sugar per (generous) serving, which is probably about how much I'd put on my oatmeal. This oatmeal, specifically:
James R. December 6, 2017 thoughts exactly.....and its bread pudding not French toast
BerryBaby December 6, 2017
Sounds like bread pudding with a cereal top. I can see topping each piece with fresh blueberries and a drizzle of blueberry syrup. Yum!
Kristen M. December 6, 2017
Berries would be so good! Also bacon :)