Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Une Soirée Française

I imagine there are some days you wake up and say to yourself, "I'm feeling a little... je ne sais quoi. It's just a lack of Gallic adventure in my life. What could I do to make myself feel just a little more French?"

Well, since we all have those days, it would sure be helpful if we all knew how to make crêpes. (And yes, I'm going to be an annoying little pedant and keep using the diacritical marks throughout this entry. Because I'm on a Mac, you see, and it's too easy!)

French night!

We're going to make one giant batch of savory crêpes and one giant batch of sweet crêpes and even if there's no possibility of ever cooking them all prior to the dinner it's entirely worth it. And they're tastier when they come right off the poêle anyway.

Crêpes Bretonnes - basic recipe
• 3 eggs
• 1 1/2 cup milk
• 1 cup sifted flour (if you don't sift it, Hitler invades your country)
• 1/4 cup sugar (I like to use brown sugar just to be a brat. That's not authentic though)
• splash of vanilla
• 2 tablespoons butter

Whisk the eggs and milk together, and sift in the flour. Whisk, whisk, whisk. This is why French women don't get fat, actually - because whisking things burns like 50,000 calories.

Add the sugar and vanilla. In your pan (hopefully an 8 or 10 inch shallow frying pan - you don't actually need a special poêle. Don't tell the Williams & Sonoma ladies I told you that.) melt the butter and then whisk it into your batter. This makes your first crêpe ugly because it's over-buttered, but that gives you the excuse to shove it in your mouth with your greasy fingertips anyway.

Pour the batter 1/3 cup (slightly less than a full 1/3 cup is what works for my pan, actually) at a time into your hot (medium high) pan. With your magical wrist action, twirl it out into a thin, even circle. Try not to let your edges get too thin or too jagged. This actually isn't too hard; or rather, it gets easy with practice.

It should be ready to flip as soon as the edges get firm, right as they start to get opaque; before they're too brown. You can try to flip it with a spatula, but chances are you will tear a hole in it. The easiest way, and I'm not even lying here, is to pull the edge up just a little with a fork, grab it with your fingers, and peel the crêpe up and flip it over. It sounds terrifying, but it's ultimately a good idea. Like asking a cute girl on a date. In both cases, you'll be very happy you went for it.

Those are the dessert crêpes. What if you want to pretend like you're healthy? Why, then, you make savory crêpes and drench them in cheese. (Cheese is HEALTHY.)

Crêpes Salées - basic recipe
• 3 eggs
• 1 1/2 cup milk
• 1/2 cup sifted white flour
• 1/2 cup sifted whole wheat or buckwheat flour. (Buckwheat is the authentic peasant way to do it... they have a hard time sticking together, though)
• Mashed onion or garlic or onion or garlic powder, or dried parsley or fresh chopped parsley or basil or... whatever innocent herb you can find cowering in a corner somewhere. Show no mercy!
• 2 tablespoons butter

Make them the same way as the sweet crêpes, but do note that any sort of adulteration off of the standard sticky white flour recipe makes it a little harder to keep the dough together - buckwheat, herbs, any sort of wet chunks - they are all sneaky little saboteurs. But you are le roi! Show those unwashed masses who wears the puffy purple king pants!

I didn't take any pictures of what we made for the inside of the crêpes, but that's because, quite frankly, it was terrifyingly rapid-fire and we were just trying to get them on the table in time. But you can use just about anything. I had strips of ham that I fried just in an ungreased pan, plus spinach, plus a white sauce with cheese melted into it. (White sauce, twitter version: Melt butter, whisk in flour til pasty balls form-sautee-add milk, whisk til thick) I used half swiss cheese and half monterey jack, but only because I was on a communist Chinese budget and couldn't afford something lovely like Brie. What if you were irresponsibly rich and you could afford a big block of Raclette and you just melted it strait onto your ham crêpes? Your neighborhood would start displaying unexpected seismic activity, that's what.

The inside of the sweet crêpes was a little bit of an échec épique, I'm sorry to say. (That's French for EPIC FAIL). See, usually it's OK to just chop up apples and sautée them in a tiny bit of water with some cinnamon and cook them soft. And pears and apples are cousins, right? Well. This cousin was a little unfit for the throne. If we had had some hand-whipped cream (50,000 calories!) perhaps things would have been OK, or at least some dark chocolate to melt in a double boiler and whisk in a little bit of water and make a disturbingly poignant chocolate sauce that dredges up memories of your childhood in Darkest Peru, that might have helped the poor naked little pears. But as they were, it was kind of like a nice fruity crêpe sprinkled with sand.

"Hey, everyone smile!" --- 40% effective.

Try your hand at it! One recipe usually makes enough crêpes for 2-4 people. This dinner was, like, 6 recipes (three of each). Quantity. We tried for quality, but at least we got quantity. And a little amour baked into every single one.

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