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HOME ON THE RANGE: Mmmmmm ... Crepes. They're easy to make
French cooking has a reputation for difficulty (as do French people). The stigma, at least regarding the food, is well deserved. The names alone send a person running for the Rice-A-Roni: Pintadeaux farcis, Merlan au vin rouge, Bouillabaisse, Choux aux fraises. But there is one French dish thats easy to make, that doesnt leaving you feeling as though some impeccably-dressed Frenchman has spit in your eye: Crepes.
Crepes are, roughly, the French version of pancakes, except that theyre much thinner and tastier and can be served with either sweet or savory fillings. You may have had crepes in the 1970s, thanks to a short-lived trend in America embodied by The Magic Pan restaurant chain. As a child, I went to The Magic Pan with my father, who loved a fancy eatery. If the place offered up a gimmick, so much the better (we once dined at a so-called underground restaurant where you rode down in a fake elevator with a wheel of bricks spinning behind a small window). In my plaid wool skirt and black velvet jacket, I ordered the Crepes Chicken Divan, feeling ever so continental. All I needed to complete the picture was a filterless cigarette.
Nowadays, I conjure that same refined sensation, that same mouthwatering satisfaction via my own kitchen. Crepe batter is very easy to concoct. You can do it with the ingredients already lurking in your cupboards and refrigerator. In a food processor, or with an electric mixer, combine 1 cup flour, 1/4-teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar (if youre planning to make a savory crepe filling, say mushroom or shrimp, omit the sugar). With the processor motor or the beater running, add 1 cup milk, 1/3-cup water, 3 eggs, and 3 tablespoons melted butter or margarine. Process the batter until smooth.
Now, heat a heavy nonstick skillet until its quite hot (an electric frying pan works well because you can precisely control the heat). If you dont have a nonstick pan, coat the bottom with a tiny amount of vegetable oil. Pour in 3 tablespoons of batter, then immediately, but gracefully, tilt the pan so the batter spreads evenly, forming a large, thin crepe. You can also use a wooden, straight-edged spatula to spread the batter. Cook until lightly browned, 30 to 45 seconds, then flip the crepe and cook for another 15 seconds. You should wind up with around 12 crepes. If youre stacking them as you go, place sheets of wax paper between the, so they dont stick together.
The really remarkable and wonderful thing about crepes is that you can fill them with just about anything. I like to spread on a little butter and honey, roll up my crepe, and eat it right over the kitchen sink. But theyre equally delectable filled with ricotta cheese (mixed with a little sugar and vanilla), blackberries (add some sugar to the berries and let them sit until a syrup forms) or an extravagant seafood sauce (recipe follows). Theyre like scrumptious little eggy wrappers.
1 cup flour,
1 tablespoon sugar (if youre planning to make a savory crepe filling, say mushroom or shrimp, omit the sugar).
1 cup milk,
3 tablespoons melted butter or margarine.
In a food processor, or with an electric mixer, combine 1 cup flour, 1/4-teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar ( if using).
With the processor motor or the beater running, add 1 cup milk, 1/3-cup water, 3 eggs and 3 tablespoons melted butter or margarine.
Process the batter until smooth.
Heat a heavy nonstick skillet until its quite hot. If you dont have a nonstick pan, coat the bottom with a tiny amount of vegetable oil. Pour in 3 tablespoons of batter, then immediately, but gracefully, tilt the pan so the batter spreads evenly, forming a large, thin crepe. You can also use a wooden, straight-edged spatula to spread the batter. Cook until lightly browned, 30 to 45 seconds, then flip the crepe and cook for another 15 seconds. You should wind up with around 12 crepes. If youre stacking them as you go, place sheets of wax paper between them, so they dont stick together.
Crepes with apples
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 medium sized cooking apples, peeled and cored
4 tablespoons sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Crepes (with sugar)
Slice apples thinly and cut into small pieces. Fry apples in 2 tablespoons butter until slightly softened, adding 2 tablespoons sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Fill apples into crepes and roll crepes like a cigarette. Butter a baking dish. Place the crepes in the dish and dot with remaining butter. Place in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Dust crepes with sifted confectioners sugar just before serving. Serve with heavy cream combined with remaining sugar and vanilla.
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/2-cup fresh orange juice
1/2-cup Grand Marnier liqueur
2 oranges, peeled, divided into sections and seeded
Crepes (with sugar)
Blend the butter and confectioners sugar together in a mixing bowl. Add the orange zest, juice and Grand Marnier. Mix thoroughly. Transfer the mixture to a large skillet and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. While the butter mixture is heating, place 2 orange sections on each crepe and fold them into quarters. Add the folded-up crepes to the skillet, and continue cooking over low heat, spooning the liquid over the crepes, for another 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2-cups milk
1 tablespoon grated cheddar cheese
Crab, lobster, shrimp, white fish
Crepes (without sugar)
In a sauce pan on medium/low heat, melt the butter or margarine. Add the flour and stir until youve got a paste. Add the milk gradually and then the cheese. Cook until thick, stirring frequently. Add to the sauce, 1 tin of drained lobster or crab meat (fresh is even better), 1/2-cup cooked shrimp and 1 pound boiled haddock or other white fish broken into pieces. Really, you can add as much or as little of whatever seafood you like. Salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon the seafood sauce onto the crepes and roll them up. Place the filled crepes into a baking dish, pouring over the top any leftover sauce. Cover with foil and heat in a 350 degree oven until hot.
Recipes and suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.