Our wonderful friend (and my surrogate daughter) Jill gave us a crêpe pan as a wedding plan. Until last week, I have loved it from a distance, too intimidated to use it. Thanksgiving, however, is (at least in my family) all about trying new and possibly incredibly difficult and irrational things, so I figured this was my best shot. Besides, you need a good solid breakfast if you’re going to be cooking and eating all day. (Ahem.)
The recipe was surprisingly easy. I found it in How To Cook Everything, which is tied for my favorite cookbook. (Tied with The New Best Recipes, which equally surprisingly did not have a crêpe recipe.) Anyway, Mark Bittman provided incredibly simple instructions for how to make the perfect crêpe, minus the fact that he shows you how to roll them instead of how to fold them like the French crêpe stands do. Fortunately, I’ve been to France often enough and recently enough that I could handle that part on my own.
So easy. Just add together and whisk whisk whisk! And then you heat up the pan, put on a little butter, and have at it. It started off okay. I poured on the batter and swirled it around to make a beautiful, if slightly uneven, circle of crêpe.
Then things fell apart a bit. The instructions said “flip over”. As you can see, it didn’t appear to be quite that simple. With five potential flipping tools, we did more harm than good.
We nearly tore the poor thing in half, and then Calin forgot that he should only put stuff on half of the crêpe, and it got messy. We decided that we needed a second pan going, so we could just flip the first pan over onto the second one and we wouldn’t have to worry about flipping tools, and we could cook twice as many. It wasn’t very elegant, but it got that first crêpe off the pan. It was a bit buttery.
For the first round, we decided on ham and cheese. We still had some “extra” ham, and some honey ham lunch meat, and of course all the amazing cheeses that we’d decided not to use in the mac & cheese after all. So we ended up with a Virginia ham/honey ham/gruyere/cheddar blend that was absolutely incredible.
After that first slightly dysfunctional crêpe, I really figured it out, and we never used the second pan again. The trick is actually NOT having too much butter, and letting the crêpe cook long enough on the first side. We rushed the first one, and the butter got in the way of it really crisping up right. Look how perfect this next one is!
This is Caitlin’s look of “I’m going to eat you”. Caitlin: 1; crêpe: 0. Depending on how you’re counting. Maybe it’s actually Caitlin:1; crêpe: 1, because if crepes are not meant to be eaten, what in heaven’s sake are they for?
For the second round, after everyone had a few ham and cheese crêpes, we decided we needed dessert. Actually, who am I kidding? I had the nutella out of the cabinet before I even got out the cookbook to find the recipe. This had been the plan all along, I just tried to legitimize it a bit with some savory crêpes first. Everybody knows nutella and banana crêpes are what crepes are made for (second to being eaten).
Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything (my notes are in italics)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- Pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
- 1 1/4 cups milk, plus more if needed
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled, plus more for cooking
- Whisk together all the ingredients except the butter for cooking until smooth; you can do this in a blender. If the mixture isn’t quite pourable, add a little more milk.
- If the time allows, let the batter rest in the refrigerator for an hour or up to 24 hours. (We made the first batch immediately, and used the rest the next day, and they definitely had a smoother flavor. Excellent either way, though.)
- Put an 8 or 10 inch nonstick skillet over medium heat and wait a couple of minutes; add a small pat of butter. Stir the batter and use a large spoon or ladle to pour a couple of tablespoons of the batter into the skillet. Swirl it around so that it forms a thin layer on the bottom of the pan.
- When the top of the crêpe is dry, after about a minute, turn and cook the other side for 15 to 30 seconds. (The crêpe should brown only very slightly and not become crisp at all.) Bear in mind that the first crêpe almost never works, even for professionals, so discard it if necessary, there is plenty of batter. (I clearly did not see this note when we started making these. In fact, I didn’t notice it until just now, when I was writing this up for all of you. So take heed – it wasn’t just me – the first one won’t work!)
- Stack the crêpes on a plate as you make them, and keep them warm in a low oven while you make the remaining crêpes. Even better, fill each crêpe while it’s still in the pan, putting the filling in the center of the bottom third of the crêpe. If you want your filling warmed, keep the pan over low heat for a few minutes.
- Don’t roll these the way Mark tells you to. Instead, fold the crêpe in half onto the filling, then press and fold it again into thirds, so it ends up in a little packet shape. The French put them in little triangular paper sleeves that unwrap down as you eat them, but you can just pick it up and eat it over a plate. It’s not elegant – it’s perfect.