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03.15.2003

French Week: Day of the Crêpe

French week plows on, undaunted! Welcome to day three: Day of the Crêpe.

I write to you tonight fortified by a crêpe supper, rich in Béchamel sauce and an undisclosed (but shocking) quantity of butter, and I would like to share the joy.

Crêpes can sound intimidating if you have never made them, but I want to reassure every reader that a crêpe is the perfect bachelor food - easy to make, hard to ruin. More pliable than a steak or a pancake, a crêpe can also hold a wider variety of fillings, both sweet and savory. Most importantly, it is forgiving of mistakes in making the batter. Forget to add milk? No problem, you just made noodles! Leave out the eggs, and you have a dairy motzah; leave out the flour, and you've made custard. Each alternative is delicious, particularly when you add Béchamel sauce. And even if you forget two ingredients, you have an odds-on chance of making something edible, like scrambled eggs, or a nice glass of hot milk.

Our own crêpes tonight were very conservative: one set with mushrooms, the other with ham. But it is my fervent hope that someone out there has the courage (and the sweet tooth) to try the following crêpe recipe, and report back forthwith:

Crêpes des chartreux

2 cups crêpe batter (see below)
2 tbsp. butter (of course)
1/4 cup sugar
3 meringues
1 shot chartreuse
1 orange peel (for zest, pesticide free)
6 macaroons
1 shot cognac
1 tablespoon peanut oil
powdered sugar

Prepare the crêpe batter and let rest for 2 hours. Set the butter out and allow it to soften. Put the butter in a bowl and fluff it up with a fork. Mix in the sugar. Crumble the meringues into the bowl. Add the chartreuse. Grate some of the orange zest into the bowl and mix. Chop the macaroons into small pieces and add them to the bowl, along with the cognac. Mix well.

With a brush, spread peanut oil on the pan and fry the crêpes. Spread them with the filling and fold them into quarters. Place them on a warmed plate, dust with powdered sugar, and serve immediately.

--

That recipe is taken from the Petit Larousse de la Cuisine, an 1800 page pocket book of recipes I purchased when I lived in France some years ago. One of the many, many things to love about that country is that they can publish an 1800 page, two-pound book and call it a pocket cookbook. In all fairness, they managed to shrink the volume down quite a bit, so it is possible to carry the book in your pocket much like it is possible to carry a brick in your pocket.

The Petit Larousse crêpe batter mix is all in metric units, so I am substituting my own personal crêpe recipe, free of charge:

Crêpes à  la manière de Idle Words

3 eggs
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup white flour
A bunch of whole milk
Pinch o'salt
1/4 cup sugar, for sweet crêpes
1 glass red wine

If you're making sweet crêpes, use white flour instead of whole wheat, and add a quarter cup of sugar to the batter at some point. Mix the eggs and flour together, and then stir in milk until the batter is runnier than you think it should be. You want the consistency of very thin gravy, but without any lumps. Let sit for at least 2 hours at room temperature. Salmonella, shlalmonella. Drink the red wine. After two hours have passed, heat up a large heavy frying pan good and hot. Rub the pan with butter or oil at the outset, and after every other crêpe. You want only enough batter to coat the pan surface; pour the batter in the center and spread it evenly by tilting the pan. The crepes should come out very thin and pliable. It's tempting to set the the heat too low - if the crêpe is sticking to the pan, takes a long time to cook, and the edges aren't curling up, the pan is too cold. If the crêpe has black blisters on its belly, or goes up in a smoky fireball as soon as the batter hits the pan, then reduce the heat a little bit.

You can test for doneness by trying to flip the crêpe - waggle the pan rapidly from side to side to separate the crêpe from the bottom. The top should be dry, and there will be steam bubbles lifting the crêpe from underneath. When the underside is done, flip the crêpe by moving the pan down, forward, and up in a big circular motion, as if you were pitching a softball. Now try again, but this time catch the crêpe on the pan. Etc. If it is your first time making crêpes, make a double portion of batter so you can practice a bit. If you are a wuss or have a very thin pan, go ahead and use a spatula.

The other side should fry much faster than the first. When the crêpe is done, stack it onto a plate, and repeat. If you are making crêpes in bachelor mode™, it is permissible to eat the crêpes as soon as they are done. Just spread jam, sugar, salami, cheese, sausage, Grand Marnier, peanut butter, or anything else you like on the crêpe, fold into a triangle, and devour. Repeat until no longer hungry.

Bon appétit!

Tomorrow on French week: the Cheese Wars

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Idle Words

brevity is for the weak




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