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Feeding a Crowd on Christmas Morning

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There are many moments that, upon a bit of reflection, feel like the demarcation between childhood and adulthood. Maybe it’s when you finally recycled all of those construction paper crafts from elementary school that your parents hoarded in your childhood home. Or perhaps it’s when you first brought a partner to your family’s Thanksgiving, a one-way ticket from the kids’ table to the grown-ups’.

Then again, maybe it was the Christmas morning you woke up at the crack of dawn not to test the festive fortitude of your parents, but to mix your first mimosa of the day, drawn more to the decadent breakfast that awaited than to the promise of Santa’s surprises.

That’s what I’m looking forward to in the long weekend ahead, at least. For those making plans for their Christmas morning meals, it’s important to consider a couple of things. One, you will absolutely be too tired to play short-order cook, however moved by the holiday spirit you may be. Two, there is always someone who shows up unannounced, or who sleeps through breakfast, or who arrives with more of an appetite than you bargained for.

In both scenarios, a flexible, make-ahead, feeds-a-crowd breakfast casserole is the answer. Melissa Clark’s new recipe for a spinach and Gruyère breakfast casserole is best when assembled the day before, so the only thing you need to do the morning of is glide it into the oven for an hour while you’re opening gifts. This dish is not loaded with bacon or ham like some breakfast casseroles, but it’s instead brightened by leeks, wilted greens and a little lemon zest.

Melissa went with Gruyère for its nuttiness and Parmesan for its depth, but do note that if you’re feeding vegetarians who avoid animal rennets, you’ll want to look for cheeses made with vegetarian-friendly rennet. Or use a soft cheese like goat cheese, “which would make the center of the casserole even creamier and tangier,” she writes.

Then there are the sweeter large-format baked oats, giant pastries and bread puddings that taste as if they were made just for holiday mornings. Like its more savory counterparts, Samantha Seneviratne’s overnight French toast should be prepared the night before for minimal day-of investment, and ditto Yossy Arefi’s pumpkin spice French toast (and, to just really, really drive the point home, Melissa’s baked French toast with oat crumble topping).

If the holidays ever have you lamenting the passage of time and the fleeting nature of youth, a syrup-soaked plate of French toast is sure to bring you back, even for a moment, to the sweet simplicity of childhood.

While the holiday season may be the only time many home cooks break out their favorite metal shapes, the cult of cookie-cutter collectors keeps Ann Clark’s business booming year-round. Priya went to the company’s factory in Vermont recently to see how the cutters were made, and I can’t stop watching the clip in her story of a Christmas tree cutter being molded. Give that a look as your gingerbread cookies bake.

Thanks for reading, and see you next week!


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