For the record, before I came to France it was my belief that crêpes are highly overrated and that specialty crêpe restaurants in the U.S. are doomed to fail, much like the overpriced cupcake store. However, my opinion on the former has taken a drastic turn once I realized the value of crêpes as cheap, delicious, portable street food – made with an artistic flare. Would it kill hot dog vendors to show a bit more showmanship in their food prep? (With the notable exception of Berlin hotdog vendors who carry their stands like a sandwich board backpack.)
Whenever we’re in Paris we grab a crêpe for lunch from a vendor for 3-4 euros. Occasionally (and especially in the most touristy areas) they will heat up a pre-made crêpe and add your ingredients of choice before folding it and wrapping it in tinfoil. That’s well enough but you miss out on seeing the process from scratch – how they will pour the batter onto their cooking surface and thin it out into a circular shape using a wooden t-shaped tool with rounded edges. When the crêpe starts to form they flip it and start adding the ingredients, waiting patiently until just the right moment to crease and fold the crêpe.
I was under the impression that in order to make crêpes at home, you needed to be super worldly and cool – also the owner of a bunch of specific cooking accoutrement that will eventually gather dust next to your fondue pot. But it turns out, crêpes are really just thin pancakes you can cook in a skillet and flip with a spatula.
Here’s how to make a basic crêpe at home (brought to you by The Bonne Femme Cookbook):
1. Combine the following ingredients in a blender in this order: 3/4 cup milk (2% or whole), 1/2 cup water, 2 large eggs, 1 cup flour, 3 Tbs melted butter (unsalted), pinch of salt. (If you don’t feel like using a blender, combine ingredients slowly and whisk well.)
2. Pulse until blended. It’s recommended that you refrigerate the batter from one (and up to 48) hours to allow the bubbles to settle so crêpes are less likely to tear.
3. Brush the bottom of a 6-7 inch nonstick skillet with butter. Heat over medium-high until the butter is hot but not burned, remove pan from heat and pour about 1/4 cup of batter into the hot pan, swirling it around to coat the entire bottom. Return the pan to the heat and cook until the crêpe is lightly browned on the bottom and loosened from the pan (30 seconds to a minute). Flip the crêpe and cook for another 30 seconds.
Adam and I have a favorite street crêpe – it’s filled with egg, cheese and pepper. In order to make it, the crêpe guys crack an entire egg onto the flipped crêpe and use the same t-shaped tool to mix and spread the egg until it’s so thin that it cooks quickly. Then they add shredded cheese (usually gruyère, or its French counterpart comté) and pepper, crease, fold and serve.
To make this version at home where the crêpes are likely to be smaller, whip the egg in a bowl ahead of time and spoon some of it on top of the crêpe (after you’ve flipped it once), spreading it around with the base of the spoon. Once the egg starts to cook, add the cheese and freshly ground pepper. If your crêpe is browning too quickly, turn down the heat and don’t hesitate to fold the crêpe, wrap in foil and allow the cheese to melt while off the heat.
When serving the crêpe as a savory course or side dish, you can just roll the crêpe around the filling. I envision many quick and easy lunches and dinners to come – stuffing them with leftover meat and veggies, topped with cheese or béchamel sauce and served with a side salad. You can even make a bunch of crêpes ahead of time, layering them with wax paper and keeping in the fridge. They reheat easily in a microwave or stovetop.
For sweet crêpes, rather than tucking the ingredients on the inside, French cooks often top the crêpe wedge with such delights as nutella, caramel, fruit, chocolate, powdered sugar – whatever their hearts desire or they have on hand in the kitchen.
As for me, I’m still quite smitten with egg and cheese.