Carnival Casserole

By Angela Denstad Stigeler

Some cities play host to pre-Lenten carnivals, while other places embrace more restrained observances, such as the Shrove Tuesday pancake supper. If your family is ready to get wild-and-crazy with breakfast for dinner, here’s about the most outlandish thing you can do with your flapjacks: pile them all up in a crazy sweet-and-savory breakfast casserole!

Layered together like a lasagna, this dish mixes sweet maple-cinnamon apples with creamy sausage milk gravy between layers of buttermilk pancakes. If you want to go all out, you can crown it with eggs that bake right on top. A sprinkle of grated cheddar and some bits of bacon act like confetti to make this breakfast bake even more festive. No matter what time of day or night you serve it, you’ll find this short stack doesn’t lack for flavor. So, whether you go for carnival or casserole, this is a pancake party you won’t want to miss.

Sausage Apple Short

Stack Casserole

Pancakes

4 tablespoons butter

2 cups flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups buttermilk

1 egg

Maple-cinnamon apples

4 slices bacon

4 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup maple syrup

Sausage milk gravy

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 pound ground pork

1 teaspoon dried sage

½ cup flour

4 cups milk

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 ½ cups grated cheddar

8 eggs, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the butter in a deep 9×13-inch casserole dish and place in the oven until melted. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Combine the buttermilk with the egg and ½ cup of water to thin the mixture. Whisk in most of the melted butter (about 3 tablespoons), using the rest to coat the casserole dish. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just enough to bring the batter together. If it seems too thick, add a little more water.

Cook the pancakes in batches on a preheated griddle or in a large skillet, spreading the batter out so you’ll have enough for three layers. If you wish, you can make silver dollar-sized pancakes for the top layer.

Meanwhile, chop the bacon and fry in a skillet until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon bits to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour off all but a tablespoon of the bacon fat. Add the apples and cinnamon to the skillet and sauté until soft. Pour in the maple syrup and let it reduce until thick and bubbly.

In a large saucepan, toast the fennel seeds over medium heat until fragrant, about a minute. Add the ground pork, sage, salt and pepper and brown the meat. Stir in ½ cup flour and continue to cook until incorporated. Add the milk, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom and bring to a boil. Once the gravy is thick, taste for seasoning and remove from heat.

To assemble, fit one layer of pancakes into the bottom of the buttered dish, squaring off the edges and using the pieces to fill in any gaps. Spread half the apple mixture on top. Pour 1/3 of the gravy evenly over top and sprinkle with ½ cup cheddar. Add another layer of pancakes, the rest of the apples, then another 1/3 of the gravy and another ½ cup cheddar. Place the last layer of pancakes on top, then pour over the remaining gravy. If you wish, make 8 wells in the gravy (between silver dollar pancakes) to hold the eggs. Crack the eggs and pour them into the wells. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top and bake until the egg whites are set and the yolks are done to your preference. Remove from the oven, sprinkle the reserved bacon over the top, and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Individual pieces can be reheated as necessary.