Country Ham and Egg Breakfast Bread

This savory bread pudding combines all the elements of a classic country breakfast - eggs, country ham, coffee and toast. Southerners are fond of red-eye gravy, a delicous sauce made from pork drippings and brewed coffee. This recipe nods to the red-eye tradition with a healthy dose of black coffee used to deglaze the pan in which the ham is cooked. This fluffy, all-in-one brunch-style dish layers sliced bread with eggs, cheddar cheese, and salt-cured country ham bits fried with black coffee - so all you'll need is more coffee (or a mimosa if you're feeling sassy) to make this a complete meal. This recipe will cook in 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours, depending on how hot your slow cooker runs, as well as its size. If you start it early in the morning, you will be eating by brunch time. However, this is one of those recipes where you really need to keep the slow cooker lid closed; opening it can add as much as 20 minutes to the final cooking time.

Reprinted with permission from The Southern Slow Cooker by Kendra Bailey Morris, copyright © 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

Country Ham and Egg Breakfast Bread

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    Ingredients

    1/2 teaspoon bacon grease or unsalted butter 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
    8 ounces country ham, such as Benton's Smoky Mountain, Edwards of Surrey, Virginia, or Smithfield, cut into cubes 1 3/4 cup milk
    1/4 cup strong brewed black coffee 10 eggs, beaten
    generous pinch of brown sugar 1 pinch dry mustard powder
    8-10 slices (1/2-inch thick) hearty white bread (preferably day-old) black pepper

    directions

    Total:
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    • 1

      Preheat a cast-iron pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Add the bacon grease and when it begins to sizzle, add the ham. Sauté until just crispy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Pour in the coffee and add a pinch of brown sugar. Stir well, scraping up the bits off the bottom of the pan. Set aside to cool.

    • 2

      Generously spray in the inside of the slow cooker with cooking spray. Place a layer of bread on the bottom (you may need to cut some slices in half to make them fit) and then top with about half the ham and cheese. Repeat with another layer of bread, then top with the remaining ham and cheese. Pour any remaining pan juices over the top.

    • 3

      Whisk together the milk, eggs, dry mustard, and pepper in a bowl. Pour this mixture over the bread layers, pushing down on the bread if necessary so everything is submerged in the milk mixture. Cover and cook on low for at least 2½ hours and up to 3½ hours, or until puffy and fully cooked through. Cut into slices and serve warm.

    notes

    Don't add salt to this recipe since the ham is already quite salty.

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