Southerners love good country sausage make that bulk sausage and many supermarkets carry a variety of superior local brands with varying degrees of heat (pepper) as well as several choices of seasoning. “Extra sage-y” is my own favorite and the one I use here. What’s good about this casserole is that it can be partially and safely made ahead, refrigerated overnight, and finished the next morning in time for a lazy Sunday breakfast. Some breakfast casseroles contain eggs as well as sausage and rice or grits. Others substitute a pound of crumbled, crisply fried bacon or sausage. This simpler recipe is the one I serve houseguests and so far, no complaints. Note: Because sausage is so highly seasoned, this recipe isn’t likely to need salt or pepper. But taste just before serving and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Yield: 6 Servings
- 1 pound extra sage-y bulk sausage meat
- 1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 large celery rib, coarsely chopped
- 1⁄2 teaspoon dried leaf thyme, crumbled
- 1 cup uncooked converted rice
- 2 cups chicken or beef broth
- Preheat oven to 350°F (but only if making the casserole the morning you’ll serve it). Spritz 2½-quart casserole with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
- Crumble sausage into large heavy skillet, set over moderately high heat, and cook, breaking up large clumps, 5 to 7 minutes until no longer pink and most of drippings have cooked out. With slotted spoon, transfer sausage to casserole.
- Drain drippings from skillet, then spoon 3 tablespoons back in. If insufficient, round out measure with bacon drippings or unsalted butter. Add onion, celery, and thyme and sauté, stirring now and then, about 5 minutes until limp and lightly browned. Add to sausage in casserole and toss well. Note: Casserole can be covered and refrigerated overnight at this point.
- Mix rice into casserole, add broth, and stir well. Cover, slide onto middle oven shelf, and bake about 1½ hours until rice is fluffy and tender. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust.
- Stir rice and sausage lightly, then serve. Accompany, if you like, with fried or scrambled eggs, and biscuits fresh from the oven. That’s the Southern way. So is it any wonder that many Southerners consider Sunday breakfast the best meal of all?