I’ll use any excuse to eat waffles. They are surefire comfort food on a weekend morning. Crispy on the outside and airy within, their tiny pockets gather puddles of melting butter and maple syrup. You do need a special waffle iron, but you can find basic, no-frills electric models for under $20 that heat quickly and are easy to clean.
I’ve always thought of waffles as a special breakfast-brunch thing, but the Birchwood Café in Minneapolis has introduced me to the notion that waffles needn’t always be sweet.
Through the seasons, their menu features savory waffles studded with herbs and vegetables and topped with great things. Take this season’s kale and feta waffle laced with rosemary butter and crowned with crisp bacon lardons and a velvety fried egg. It’s an easy idea to replicate with just about any batter and topping you please.
The best waffle batters are made with yeast and require an overnight rise, but when in a hurry, simply folding beaten egg whites into a simple batter yields a waffle that’s equally airy and crisp. You can make fabulous waffles from any favorite homemade pancake recipe or just use a prepared pancake or cornmeal mix.
And, like pancakes or crêpes, it often takes the first couple of tries to get things right. Once I’m in the rhythm, the waffles come off the griddle lickety-split, so I often make extra batches to freeze for later. Simply pop them into the toaster oven and dinner is ready in a wink.
Like bagels, waffles can be a blank canvas, ready for your inspiration and whatever odds and ends you might have in the refrigerator. To the batter, fold in chopped herbs or shredded vegetables, spices or grated cheese.
Then top them with more vegetables, or leftover chicken, poached eggs, salsa or bacon.
Or keep these in mind for a party: Cut them into triangles and top with a dollop of horseradish cream and layers of shredded smoked trout for a pretty appetizer when friends drop in.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.