Lots of people love eating breakfast for dinner. To me, though, it’s often been more of a meal of last resort. What you eat when you haven’t gotten to the store for more serious groceries, but hey, you’ve got eggs, and the bread is fresh enough if you toast it.
But recently, I stumbled across the idea of savory waffles – can’t remember where now – and breakfast for dinner suddenly became more interesting. For starters, you’ve got waffles, elegant city cousins of the country pancake. They even require their own machine to make – no mere cast iron skillet will do. Whenever my mom hauled out the waffle iron (always on a weekend morning, and certainly never for dinner), breakfast just felt fancier, more fun.
Then there’s the savory part. Taking something generally meant to be dressed with syrup or jam (or somewhat disturbingly – at least to me – with sugary fruit and whipped cream) and topping it instead with something salty, even meaty, and definitely dinnerish.
Savory waffles is a bit of a misnomer. They’re not overly salty and don’t contain chicken stock or any other umami flavor. They’re just less sweet, a little saltier and more open to pairing with a savory topping. Fresh herbs give them an extra layer of interesting. Some recipes call for using corn meal along with flour, but I feel this takes you down a cornbread path that I didn’t want. Instead, I took a page from the French crêpes notebook. The difference between sweet and savory crêpes is that the latter includes buckwheat flour in the mix; it adds a similarly rustic note without going all cornbread.
Savory Waffles with Mushrooms and Braised Veal
For the mushrooms and braised veal:
1-1/2 pounds veal, cut into bite-sized pieces (see Kitchen Notes)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 small shallots, chopped and divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, divided
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth (or homemade stock, even better)
1 cup dry white wine
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh parsley
8 ounces sliced mushrooms (I used crimini mushrooms – see Kitchen Notes)
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup Marsala wine (or Madeira or dry sherry) [editor's note: substitute same amount with cooking wine or beef broth]
fresh sage leaves for garnish, optional
For the savory waffles:
1 cup unbleached general purpose flour
1 cup buckwheat flour (or another cup of general purpose flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
Prepare the mushrooms and braised veal. Season the veal chunks with salt and pepper. In a plastic bag, toss the veal with 1 tablespoon of flour; this will give it a very light coating of flour to help it brown and lightly thicken the sauce. Heat a large, lidded nonstick skillet over medium flame. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then add the veal. If you have veal bones (I cut up a bone-in arm steak for my veal – see Kitchen Notes), add those to the pan too. Brown the veal lightly on all sides, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Turn the bones a time or two as you stir. Transfer veal and bones to a bowl and set aside.
Reduce the heat slightly and sweat about half of the chopped shallots for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, drizzling in a little more oil, if needed. Take care that they don’t burn or overly brown. Add garlic and 1 tablespoon sage and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds, stirring constantly. Pour in chicken broth and then wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Return veal (plus bones, if you have them) and any accumulated juices to the pan. Tuck in the bay leaves, lay the parsley sprigs across the top of the veal, cover the pan and reduce the flame to very low.
Braise the veal until very tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Check occasionally to make sure your liquid doesn’t cook down too much; add a little water, if needed. You probably won’t need to.
As the veal is nearing doneness, cook the mushrooms. In a separate large nonstick skillet, melt the butter over a medium flame and swirl in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté the mushrooms until they give up their moisture and it evaporates, about 5 minutes or so. Stir in the remaining shallots and sage, drizzling in more oil, if needed (mushrooms love to soak up butter and oil). Cook until shallots are just tender, 3 or so minutes. Turn off flame and add Marsala. Stir for a few moments, then turn on the flame again. Cook mushrooms until Marsala is almost completely evaporated.
Remove parsley and bones from the veal mixture and add mushrooms. Stir to combine completely. Sauce will probably be pretty thin; if so, make a beurre manié (French for kneaded butter). Cut up 1 tablespoon of butter into a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of flour and, using your fingers, work flour into the butter.
Push mushroom/veal mixture to the sides of the pan and whisk bits of the beurre manié into the sauce until sauce has thickened to a syrupy consistency; I used about half of it. Cover the mushroom/veal mixture and keep warm if waffles aren’t ready.
Make waffles. Preheat your waffle iron according to manufacturer instructions. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and melted butter. Stir in thyme. Stir wet ingredients into dry and mix until thoroughly combined; don’t overwork. Let batter rest for at least 5 minutes before cooking according to waffle iron instructions. Cook them on the crisp side.
Keep waffles warm in a preheated oven, but don’t stack—they’ll steam each other and lose their crispness.
Assemble plates. Arrange waffles on individual plates. Spoon mushroom/veal mixture over waffles. Garnish with sage leaves.
Veal – and other options. You can sometimes find veal stew meat. If not, look for a veal arm steak. Cut the meat from the bones and keep the bones to help flavor the sauce. If you can’t find veal or want other choices, you can substitute steak or pork or chicken. The taste will be different, but still delicious. You can also substitute the chicken and mushrooms filling from this crêpes recipe.
Picking mushrooms. I used crimini or baby bella mushrooms. Feel free to use any mushrooms you like, including button mushrooms.
Too many waffles. The batter will make 7 or 8 8-inch waffles. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to halve the 3 eggs called for. Besides, in my experience, the first waffle or two ends up not working out anyway and has to be tossed. If you have leftover waffles, some recipes suggest refrigerating or freezing them and reheating them in a toaster. You could also reheat them on a baking sheet in the oven. I wouldn’t use a microwave – that will make them soggy.