Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide: Waffles by Dawn Yanagihara

Who needs a whole book about waffles? After all, on the surface of things, how much can be done with the waffle-y form? But in chef and cookbook editor Dawn Yanagihara’s first book, Waffles: Sweet, Savory, Simple (Chronicle) you see the waffle in what would seem to be all possible forms. And it’s wonderful!

The waffles of my own childhood were delicious but super simple affairs. They came from a box in the freezer. You dropped them into the toaster. After the pop you added syrup and -- voila! -- an instant breakfast I didn't imagine could be topped. Dawn Yanagihara’s waffles are nothing like any of that. First of all, though, we’re treated to Yanagihara’s humor: “In one of my oversimplified views of human beings,” she writes in the introduction, “there are two types of people: those who like pancakes and those who like waffles.” She posits that the pancake people are “stable, grounded, in control” and so on, while the wafflers are “off-kilter, willy-nilly, moody” and more. She goes on to say this is nonsense, but you can’t help but loving her for saying it: there are differences, and here they are.

However much you like (or don’t) Yanagihara’s waffle-based philosophy, none of the recipes in this excellent book involve toasters. Her classic waffle recipe is very good: basic and seemingly infallible. But from there, it just gets better.

How can you not admire the inventiveness that brings us Huevos Y Waffles Rancheros? Here cornmeal waffles replace the corn tortillas on which the fried eggs in this classic Mexican breakfast rest. And I’m looking forward to trying Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraiche on Buckwheat-Sour Cream Waffles as an appetizer over the holidays. But the star for me (and it certainly won’t be for everyone!) has to be the Fried Chicken and Waffles with Bacon Gravy. This perplexing Southern favorite is here broken down in a way that even moderately accomplished home chefs should be able to attempt with confidence. ◊

Aaron Blanton is a contributing editor to January Magazine. He’s currently working on a book based on his experiences as an American living abroad.

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