The idea of creating a breakfast casserole with giardiniera has been floating around in my mind for a loooong time. It’s one of the things that I miss most about living in Chicago. If you’ve lived in Chicacago, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If not, you’re in for a treat! Giardieniera is a condiment that is Italian in origin…or maybe Chicago Italian in origin. It’s a blend of peppers, hot peppers, cauliflower, carrots and celery. The best ones are preserved in oil. I’ve also seen them (mostly places other than Chicago) in a pickled/brined version. The oil packed version is BY FAR the most authentic and tastiest. I like these two. They're authentic and exactly like what I could get in Chicago. You can buy both on Amazon.
In Chicago you can get it at pretty much any sandwich place, and one of my favorite things to do with it was to put it on a breakfast sandwich whenever I got the chance. The most famous use though is piling it on arguably Chicago’s best sandwich…the Italian Beef. I miss those a lot too. I’ll work on a recipe for Italian Beef sometime soon. But for now, here’s my Chicago-style breakfast sandwich in casserole form.
If egg casseroles aren’t familiar to you either, then you’re probably not from the Midwest. I based this one on my aunt’s recipe for an egg casserole, that was the first egg casserole I ever ate. It makes for a casserole that bakes and sets up well, with almost a custard like feel in the finished product. The original version uses ham, onions, and green peppers.For this version, I used just giardinera and the egg base, but you could easily modify this to include meant. I’d probably go with either crumbled breakfast sausage or break from the traditional breakfast and use a mild Italian sausage.
Okay.Here we go. Start with your giardiniera. You want to let some of the oil drain off before you put it into your casserole. My preferred method for this is lining a bowl with paper towel and then using a fork to remove the amount of giardinera I want from the jar, letting some of the oil drain off as I lift it.I then drop it into the bowl and let it drain on the paper towel for 15 minutes or so.
Then, take 4 slices of bread and butter both sides. Personally, as an admitted butter freak, I think this step is essential.If you’re not that into butter, feel free to leave it out. You’ll lose a little bit of richness though.
Next, drop the bread in the bottom of your casserole dish (I used 8x8 I think) and get them sort of evenly spread out. The bread soaks up the egg mixture and gives the casserole some structure. It’s not soggy…I swear!
Next, scatter your drained giardinera on top of the bread and then top with the cheese.
Crack the eggs into a large bowl and beat them well with a whisk or fork. Add in the dry mustard and salt and whisk again. Then whisk in the milk. Pour this evenly over the bread.
Now comes the easy part…just cover it with some foil and let it sit in your fridge at least over night, but up to 24 hours. In the morning, pop the foil off and back at 325 degrees for one hour.
The Recipe: Chicago-Style Breakfast Casserole
- 4 slices bread, buttered on both sides
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 2 cups milk
- ½ to ¾ tsp salt
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 8 oz mozzarella, shredded
- ½ cup giardiniera, drained
- Place buttered bread slices in bottom of ungreased pan.
- Top bread with giardiniera and shredded cheese.
- Mix remaining ingredients together and pour over bread.
- Cover and let stand in refrigerator overnight or up to 24 hours.
- Bake uncovered at 325 degrees for 1 hour.
Note: The giardiniera brings a lot of flavor on its own so adjust salt as necessary. You may only need ½ tsp.