When I first looked at the combination of food required for my recipes, I had to laugh. Over the past week I had been focusing on cooking and thinking about recipes and some of my favorite flavors to include in the Cook of the Week Challenge. Nothing could have prepared me to develop a recipe combining frozen waffles, green chiles and gruyere-style cheese.
The giant chunk of cheese that I picked up from the Daily Herald office was incredible. I knew that I could combine it with the green chiles in a recipe, but adding the waffles was the real challenge for me. I considered making a sandwich of some sort, since I felt the recipe needed to be savory. I tried to manipulate the waffle by rolling it into a crepe or shaping it into a bowl. Neither of these ideas were successful.
My mother came over for lunch and she watched as a scrambled around my kitchen trying to perfect my egg and cheese strata entree. The first attempt lacked the wow factor that I wanted. The addition of tomatoes really added the depth of flavor for me, but the crumbly bacon pieces scored high points with the rest of the family of taste testers. I wondered if adding bacon to a recipe could be considered cheating or if I'd be disqualified from the competition. Doesn't the addition of bacon always make things taste better?
Finally, by changing the shape of the dish by using a muffin tin, I was convinced it had the visual appeal that I was looking for. I think this recipe can be easily adapted for individual tastes and preferences and I think kids will like the muffin shape.
Next my thoughts consumed me with how to use frozen waffles in another dish, even dreaming about the possibilities. Finally, I decided not to disguise the frozen waffle, but to just embrace its waffleness and coat it with cinnamon and sugar. The sweet strawberry topping was enhanced by the subtle hints of Balsamic vinegar and a touch of basil. This sweet side seemed to be the perfect partner for the savory egg strata hatched from the muffin tin.
My initial reaction to the ingredients was "Are you kidding me?" I was anxious to try the cheese. And I was surprised by the strength of the flavor. It is stronger that most cheese that I am used to, but the flavor does soften when cooked. Then my wheels started turning and I thought about strata with waffles instead of bread. But with a crusty white bread for the base to create a chew on the bottom like a genuine crust.
I also thought about a blend of ingredients that would compliment the waffles and create a flavor profile that would have wide appeal. Strata and baked egg dishes are like pizza, there are many different directions one can go. But I tried to keep it simple. I did one trial run that was pretty good, but not great. The people who ate it with me all made some great suggestions and after some discussion we agreed that the changes would make the dish really sing. For example, there was no onion in the original trial run, and we increased the quantity of cheese and mushrooms as well as the addition of one more can of chilies. So I cooked it with the changes and, oh baby, was it scrumptious. My wife and son loved it. The final product, when plated up, looks fabulous. This is a great dish to serve to guests for brunch. And the smells that fill the kitchen while it cooks really whet the appetite.