The best thing I did in 2016 was go to my childhood best friend’s lake house in Alabama over 4th of July weekend. There is not really all that much to do in the small town two hours south of Birmingham where the lake house is, except for revert to a life of pure, unadulterated, blissful dirtbagdom. “Dirtbag” is here defined as the state of being your most relaxed, comfortable self, away from the disciplinary structure of your normal life and the scrutiny of anyone. It is the highest ideal of friendship, to be able to be co-dirtbag with them, to be able to sprawl on the couch in unflattering, ungainly positions together while marathoning House Hunters in pajama pants that have Dorito crumbs on them. It is the blessed time when you are easy on yourself. The time I spent on the land, I was generally wearing a massively oversized Bud Light tank top with American flag shorts, and the time I spent on the lake was mostly floating on a giant doughnut-shaped inner tube drinking a dirtbag shandy (recipe: a can of cheap beer doctored with with several squirts of lemon extract). It was the American dream.
Somewhere in this reverie, I ended up with a lot of dirtbag party leftovers and some friends to feed breakfast to. As a newly minted breakfast journalist, the pressure was on. I mean, if I didn’t whip together something, then I’m sure we would have just gotten drive-thru or something, but (in a Matthew McConaughey voice) my reputation was at stake, man. And so, I texted my new colleague Kat Kinsman about how to assemble a breakfast casserole from the following ingredients: stale Bud Light, eggs, bread, cheese, Jimmy Dean sausage, assorted tater tots, and a bag of Doritos.
In my closest approximation of memory, after text message consultation with Kat, that genius of party leftovers, I made a casserole that was something like this: Line bottom of pan with a few slices of bread soaked in Bud Light. On top of that, scatter a layer of Jimmy Dean sausage, then tater tots. Do you have leftover bagel bites? That’s cool, throw them in. Whip up some eggs (Four? Six? I don’t live your life) with a little milk and pour that all over the whole concoction. Some cheese was involved somehow? I think either between the sausage and the tots or on top of everything? And finally, crush up some Doritos, or take a scoop of the Doritos shake from the bottom of the bag, and sprinkle it on top of the whole thing. Bake at 350 for like, 40 minutes depending on your oven. Just check on it and make sure the egg is setting and the cheese is melting and all that jazz. And then behold: Dirtbag Lakehouse Breakfast Casserole. It’s delicious. I swear.
But because Kat knows things about actual recipes and has wizard-like qualities that allow her to transform Mountain Dew into jelly and a pig’s head into dreams, probably she should actually give you the recipe. It is, from the bottom of our hearts, the best gift we could give to you this holiday season.
Dirtbag Lakehouse Breakfast Casserole
Tater tots or something bread-y or both
Beer, leftover and flat is fine
Meat, sausage is great, but whatever
Eggs, a few
Salt and pepper to taste
Salsa (if you feel like it)
Cheese (if you have it, but don’t make a special trip to the store)
Chips (potato, corn, Doritos, Fritos)
Hot sauce (if that’s where the morning takes you)
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Find a casserole pan. It doesn’t have to be a nice one or have blue flowers on it unless you are the Queen of Fancyland or something. Foil will do. If you have butter or cooking spray, grease that baby up.
Soak the tater tots (cooked, or at least thawed) or bread or bagels or whatever in beer in a bowl. No beer? Sad. Ginger ale will do or even a half-dead Coke. Just make sure it all gets a little soggy but not actually falling apart. Fish out the solids with a spoon (slotted if you’ve got one) and put them in the casserole pan. Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle in the meat—could be sausage, bacon, ham, bologna, burger, Slim Jims—whatever’s on hand. Just make sure it’s cooked beforehand.
In a bowl (Maybe rinse out the beer bowl? Maybe leave the beer in there like a genius?), whip together some eggs and milk until they’re thoroughly incorporated, then pour it over the meat and carbs. This is what by law makes it a breakfast casserole. Dollop with salsa if you have some handy.
Got cheese? Great! Grate it (if it’s American cheese, slice it, and by the way, you rock) and scatter it lavishly over the top of the muck below. Then crush a crap-ton of chips and sprinkle them on top, pressing them in gently if needed.
Slide the whole thing into the oven and after 20 minutes, see how it’s going. Look for a nicely browned top, and a center that’s not too squishy. Check back every 10 minutes or so until it’s done.
You could serve this in squares or just hand out forks and have some hot sauce nearby. As Margaret said, I don’t live your life.