Waffle strata

For several years it’s been tradition for me to bring cheese strata to my parents’ house for breakfast on Christmas. I first learned of this dish from my aunt, and years later I found a recipe online that I’ve made a number of times with great success.

However, although my cooking knowledge is limited I do like to think of myself as a bit of a mad scientist, so I tinkered with this recipe until I came up with an even better one. First I present the original cheese strata, the recipe I found online:

Cheese Strata

  • 10 slices bread, crust removed
  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 2 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cup (8 oz.) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Cut bread in cubes and toss with melted butter. Place bread evenly in a buttered 12 × 8 × 2-inch baking pan. Combine milk, eggs, cheese, and salt in a large mixing bowl, stirring until well blended; pour evenly over bread cubes. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Uncover and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Cut into 10 equal portions and garnish with a tomato rose and parsley if you desire. Serve immediately. Serves 10.

Now if you stop there, that’s a great recipe. It’s not that hard to make as long as you remember you need to prepare it overnight. The main difference is that I’ve never had any success mixing the cheese in with the milk and egg, so my approach has always been to put the cheese on separately; I think it works well adding it in stages both before and after the milk and egg mixture. I also choose to grate my cheese from an 8 oz. block instead of buying pre-shredded; I’ve tried it both ways but grating it myself works out better. I use an 11×9 Pyrex pan for this, so you can fudge the dimensions a little. Bear in mind if you use a smaller but deeper dish, cooking time may need to increase slightly and you’ll have to check on doneness; the final result should have a slightly soggy consistency but shouldn’t be oozing any milk or egg.

But I did not stop there. I used this recipe as a launching point to develop an even greater one.

Waffle Strata

Waffles

  • 2 cups Bisquick
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil or margarine

Strata

  • 4 tbsp butter (1/2 stick), melted
  • 2 cup milk
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cup (8 oz.) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Make waffles in waffle iron. Set aside at least half of the waffles for strata. (My waffle iron makes just under four squares; this recipe requires two, which will be just over half.) Leave the strata waffles open on a plate and uncovered so they do not compress, until they cool. Store in refrigerator until ready to make strata.

Cut waffles into small pieces in place of bread cubes. Toss with melted butter and add to pan. Prepare strata as normal, with modifications to ingredients as listed above.

The advantages of using waffles instead of bread are many. Waffles fluff up better in the pan and tend to absorb the liquid better. They also have a slightly chewier mouth feel (though not a lot). The liquid does tend to have more trouble covering the waffles this way, but you can tamp them down with a mixing spoon before sticking the pan in the fridge overnight.

My waffle iron is a nice Black & Decker model that appears to be difficult to come by now; it makes square waffles, not the Belgian kind, and a typical waffle batch makes up three-and-a-half to four large squares. (I highly recommend square waffle makers. They’re just superior in every way to round ones.) Two large squares are needed for the strata. I always make my waffles with margarine instead of vegetable oil because at the end of the day they’re basically the same thing anyway, but margarine has more flavor. You may recognize the waffle recipe as the one on the side of the Bisquick box, but it’s been altered slightly to add more milk. They come out better with more milk; I always make them this way.

The waffles benefit from the additional butter, so my recipe increases that slightly. I also used less milk the last time I made a waffle strata, hence the drop from 2 1/2 cups to 2, which firms up the texture a bit.

This cheesy delight pairs very well with other traditional breakfast staples—yes, even waffles—but it will also be the hit of any brunch or dinner gathering.

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About Lummox JR

Aspiring to be a beloved supervillain
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