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Make-ahead lazy holiday morning breakfast

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December is a favorite month for foodies. In addition to all of our rich treats and dressy parties and dinners, we want to sit around in our PJs drinking coffee and cocoa out of mismatched mugs, listening to tinny renditions of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" or the Lessons and Carols broadcast live from Kings College Cambridge.

It is just this relaxing scenario that makes messing up the kitchen or running out to the store very unattractive. As I've written before in these pages, I am a big fan of do-ahead dishes that do not sacrifice quality local ingredients or taste. This year, my house is full for the holidays, and I'm running the dishwasher 24/7, so I decided to resurrect an easy recipe for breakfast.

Both grandmothers to my children, plus a step-grandma, make some version of this savory bread pudding. Some folks call it Christmas Morning Casserole, others call it Sausage-Egg-Cheese Dish or Overnight Eggs. It depends who you're feeding, and if you're trying to hide the ingredients from some picky eater. I wanted to see how it might work with the free-range eggs and fresh (or smoked) mozzarella and mild breakfast sausage that are regular purchases from our weekly farmers' market run. We made the recipe with a whole wheat loaf from my husband Jim's bread machine, and I am happy to say the results were very crowd-pleasing. During one test batch, I had to let it sit in the refrigerator overnight for more than 48 hours, and it cooked up just as well as the other two test runs. I also halved the recipe with no difference in texture or flavor. I suggest one or two pounds of sausage—depends on the meat lovers at your table. It is delicious either way: One pound is plenty for taste, two pounds are meaty indeed.

Editor's note: The Now Serving column is on a holiday break this week; it returns next week.

Overnight Eggs

1 1-pound loaf whole grain bread, crusts trimmed
1 to 2 pounds ground, mild breakfast sausage
10 jumbo farm eggs
2 cups whole milk
1/8 teaspoon paprika
Kosher salt to taste
3 cups grated cheese
Butter for the pan

Cut bread into crouton-sized cubes to equal 6 cups and set aside to air. Brown and drain the sausage. Beat eggs, milk and seasonings together until well mixed. Butter the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish and spread half the bread cubes on it. Layer half the cheese and half the cooked sausage on top of bread. Repeat layers a second time ending with sausage on top. Pour egg-milk mixture over all. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate overnight, or up to two days. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, testing in the middle for doneness. A knife inserted into the dish should come out dry. Serves eight generously.

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