Among my favorite food traditions, Easter brunch is a meal that I delight in preparing for family, large groups of friends or just one special person.
Dishes have been as elaborate as home-cured gravlax and as simple as scrambled duck eggs with the season’s peerless morels. But usually, I plan at least one that can be prepared ahead of time and doesn’t require slaving over the stove. That constitutes the gamut of oven-baked French toast, strata, quiche, frittata (a perennially popular topic of this blog) and various other twists on the egg casserole.
Egg-lover that I am, I do tire of dishes that start with big bowls of beaten eggs. Craving something different, I pondered using my waffle iron for this year’s brunch. Failing to entice for most of my life, waffles have earned a place in my repertoire since the appliance debuted in my kitchen two Christmases past.
Now that I’ve smothered waffles in syrup, smeared them with peanut butter and jam and topped them with ice cream, I’ve plotted the addition of bacon bits, maybe topped with an egg and sweet-savory chutney. Yet somehow, that concept just didn’t seem special enough for Easter brunch.
And the classic combination of fried chicken and waffles? Too much work on a leisurely weekend, a point on which I agree with Chicago Tribune writer Nick Kindelsperger.
Acknowledging that waffle batter is a cinch to make, Kindelsperger also confirms that waffles can be made 20 minutes or so in advance and kept warm in the oven. His crunchy cornmeal waffle wouldn’t suffer if it crisped up a bit, particularly once topped with a poached egg. Indeed, these are a perfect foil for oozing egg yolk.
This formula resembles one of my family’s favorite dishes — poached eggs on crispy polenta cakes — closely enough for weekday breakfasts. For this weekend and other special occasions, I’ll borrow or adapt one of Kindelsperger’s suggestions.
The first would be an obvious use for the locally raised pork filling my freezer (or leftover Easter ham), the second a special presentation for garden peas and the third a late-night indulgence with the kimchee that always has a place in my fridge.
SOUTHERN-STYLE: Saute 8 thin slices of country ham in butter until lightly browned. Top each cornmeal waffle with 2 tablespoons of pimento cheese, a slice of country ham, a poached egg and a sprinkle of chopped chives.
LIGHT AND SPRINGY: Saute 2 cups fresh or frozen peas in 4 tablespoons butter until warm. Add a handful of chopped mint and a large pinch of salt. Top each cornmeal waffle with a 1/4-cup of the pea mixture, a poached egg and a sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese.
KOREAN-STYLE: Add half a cup of chopped scallion to the waffle batter; cook as you normally would. Saute 8 strips of bacon until crisp. Remove all but 4 tablespoons of bacon fat. Add 2 cups chopped cabbage kimchee and cook until mixture is lightly browned. Top each scallion cornmeal waffle with 1/4-cup kimchee, a poached egg, a strip of bacon and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
2 cups buttermilk or milk
1/3 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs and canola oil. In a second bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients on top of wet and stir just until batter looks roughly combined.
Heat a waffle iron to medium-high. Follow directions for your model, but most suggest using 1/3 cup batter per waffle. Cook until golden-brown and crisp. Transfer waffles to a baking sheet placed in a 200-degree oven to stay warm. Repeat with remaining batter.
Make 8 to 10 waffles.