Jazz brunch at the cove is a favorite winter pastime. Make-ahead dishes like Monte Cristo casserole make it so easy. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

When I go out for an occasional restaurant breakfast, if any version of a Monte Cristo sandwich is on the menu, I browse no further. That is why, on a recent blustery evening – no, not that one – I built this breakfast casserole and invited friends for the next day’s brunch.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at iwrite33@comcast.net or 504-0545.

At 10:30 a.m. sharp, they arrived to help me taste-test this fluffy eggy goodness studded with turkey, ham and cheese. I used honey-roasted cold cuts and cheeses from the deli counter for this version, but if you are lucky enough to have leftover turkey and ham from a Sunday dinner, that would be divine.

This casserole is delicious on its own as a savory dish, or feel free to liven it up with a dusting of powdered sugar and a dollop of jam or a small pool of Maine maple syrup. It’s all good.

A colorful fruit salad is in order (for health reasons) to go along with this casserole, served from your prettiest glass bowl, of course.

Do we need dessert with this meal? Why, yes. Yes, we do. Curl up on the living room couches for a bit with cups of tea, play a game of cards or bundle up and go for a walk – if the temperature is above 15 degrees, that is. Then regroup at the table for a little smidgen of chocolate to fortify your guests for the trip home.

At any rate, you’ll need a sugar injection to help get you through the kitchen cleanup.


P.S. For coating the silky chocolate truffles, plain cocoa is lovely, especially with a pinch of flaky sea salt. Cinnamon sugar is also delightful. Make some of each or come up with an idea of your own. Crushed nuts or pretzels and toasted coconut are other yummy choices.

Best of all, these truffles can be packed up for take-aways if your friends insist they can’t possibly eat another bite.

Monte Cristo casserole

1 loaf (16 ounces) French bread

1 1/2 cups turkey

1 1/2 cups ham

1 cup Swiss cheese


1 cup mild cheddar cheese

12 large eggs

2 cups whole milk

Powdered sugar (optional)

Maple syrup or raspberry preserves (optional)

Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Cut bread, meat and cheeses into quarter-inch cubes. Place half the bread cubes in the baking dish and layer half the turkey, ham and cheese on top. Then repeat with the remainder of the bread, meat and cheese.


In a large bowl, combine eggs and milk. Whisk until well-combined then pour over bread, meat and cheese layers. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic wrap and bake 40 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the casserole is firmed up in the middle. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.

If you want to really make this ahead, bake it then freeze when cooled to heat up later in at 300 degrees until warmed through.

Top with powdered sugar. Serve with jam or syrup.

Yield: 8 servings

Berries and clemmies

4 clementines, peeled and sectioned


1 cup blackberries

1 cup raspberries

4 tablespoons pomegranate arils

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Gently toss together in a large bowl and chill.

Yield: 4 servings


Chocolate Truffles

1 cup heavy cream

12 ounces semisweet chocolate, morsels or chopped

4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1 tablespoon brandy or liqueur

1/2 cup cocoa powder OR 1/2 cup cinnamon sugar

Flaky sea salt (optional)


In a saucepan over medium-high heat, warm cream until very hot, but not simmering. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and butter until mixture is smooth. Add brandy or liqueur and whisk until thickened. Spoon into a bowl and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Line a rimmed baking sheet, tray or platter that will fit in your refrigerator with parchment paper. Scoop level tablespoons of chilled chocolate and place on prepared tray. Chill for 10 minutes.

Sift cocoa to remove any lumps and sprinkle on a plate. Using your hands and working quickly (you may want to wear disposable gloves), shape each tablespoon of chocolate into a ball and roll in cocoa. Press a few flakes of sea salt into each truffle, if using.

Chill again for at least 30 minutes. Remove 20 minutes before serving.

The rolled truffles can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. It’s best to coat them after they are slightly thawed.

Yield: 4 dozen truffles

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