ham and cheese croissant casserole

The Christmas countdown is upon us and I am READY for it. But by ready I mean less like "done with Christmas shopping" (because I, uh, haven't started yet?) and more like "excited to relax with my BewBew and eat all the delicious food things." I did already set up and decorate our little tree last weekend, so that's something.

To be honest, I can be sort of grinchy around the end o' year holidays. Partly because the days are still so freaking short, but also because the commercialism of it all can be so off-putting, and I don't know, the holidays weren't very good times for the younger me.

I'm slowly warming to the festivities as an adult, though, and since I've been with Cos - who happens to be Mr. Christmas, by the way - the holidays have been admittedly stellar. This year I’ve even found myself *enjoying* all the silly little seasonal traditions I usually scoff at him for digging so much. Real time action shot of the grinch's cold black heart thawing out here, guys. Either way, it is nice to have a reason to celebrate at the end of a year that continues to feel like a cold opening on SNL gone wrong. (John Glenn too? C'mon 2016!)

Our plans for the actual day of Christmas are a super low key variation on the theme of doing nothing on purpose / embracing the chill / all I want for Christmas is sleep, but until then we’re doing it up with all the tinsel and cheer - even tickets to see the Nutcracker ballet - and FOOD! Of course food! Two of my favorite types of holiday eats are finger food and casseroles, both of which are amaze for attending and hosting parties. I've got big weekend plans for some finger food and ooo I really hope they work out. But first, let's drop the beat on this croissant casserole. (Lulz, my bad.) 

There is plenty to love about this casserole, but what I appreciate most is the total down home feel of it. It's not that complicated in the most pleasing way. It's buttery, it's cheesy, ham is involved; what else could you possibly need?As someone so enthusiastic about cooking and eating food, I sometimes get this thing in my head where I need to be surprised (!) shocked (!) inspired (!) by everything I eat. An realistically speaking that's nonsense, and basically more of the commercialism I was just bitching about.

Thankfully, this casserole is the perfect antidote for that notion. It tastes exactly like a ham, egg, and cheese croissant. There aren't any twists or revelations to be found here. It's plain yes, but not boring in the least. The pleasure is in the simplicity. Assembly takes all of 5 minutes and it will be devoured in the same amount of time at your next holiday brunch. It's also an amazing breakfast for dinner, as we had it, alongside a giant green salad. 

Ham and Cheese Croissant Casserole, adapted Homesick Texan originally by Nigella Lawson
6-8 Servings

4 or 5 croissants (12 oz)
8 ounces chopped ham
1 cup (4 oz) shredded gruyere cheese
1 cup (4 oz) sharp cheddar cheese
3 green onions
2 cups whole milk
5 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch cayenne

Cut each croissant in half lengthwise (as if you were opening it to make a sandwich, says Lisa Fain) and then cut into roughly 1-inch chunks.

Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish or 10-inch oven proof skillet. [Word to the wise: Opt for a wider vs taller baking dish here or the middle will be forever squidgy.] Cover the bottom of the dish with half of the croissants pieces. Then layer on all of the ham, half of each of the shredded cheeses, and the green onions. Top everything with the remaining croissants, snuggling all of the pieces into a firmly packed layer.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Whisk together the milk, eggs, mustard powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne until well combined. Pour the eggs evenly over the casserole and then lightly press the top croissant layer into the egg mixture. Allow the casserole to rest for 20 minutes or until the bread has absorbed the egg mixture. (Original notes that you can assemble the casserole at night for baking the next morning, allowing it to rest covered in the refrigerator overnight.)

When you’re ready to bake, top the casserole with the rest of the cheese and bake uncovered for 40-50 minutes or until puffed up and golden. Mine the middle of mine was still rather jiggly after 40 minutes. Let the casserole rest for 10 minutes, it will firm up as it cools. Serve warm.