Frenchitude Lesson #21: When The Going Gets Tough, Make Crêpes


February gets me every time. As my sister Jayne pointed out, February is like the Tuesday of the winter. It’s not the beginning like Monday, which is never as bad as you imagine, but it’s not anywhere near the end either.

I want warmth and sunshine and Spring, but like any French person for now I’ll just have to settle with crêpes.

Crêpes are French comfort food, and in our family we try to make them on most Sunday nights for dinner during the winter – and they are never more needed that when we are stuck in the dirge-like depths of February.

Here is our family crêpes recipe; a balm for our souls, especially in February.

Ingredients

500 grams of white flour
6 eggs
8 centilitres of vegetable oil (not olive or anything strong tasting)
1 litre of milk (2% or up best)
1 pinch of salt

Tools
whisk
fine-meshed sieve
crêpe pan or if not a small Teflon frying pan

Instructions

How to Make Batter

– Mix flour and salt together with whisk in bowl.

– Make a hole in the centre of the flour mixture with your fingers.

– Add eggs and oil into hole (doesn’t matter if it runs over).

– Mix gently with whisk – batter will be stiff and lumpy – this is perfectly normal, while mixing wet the batter with a quarter of the milk, mix milk in…

– When you more or less have a homogeneous mass of batter, pour the rest of milk in all at once.

– Keep mixing delicately with whisk until you have smoothed out as many of the lumps as possible.

– ***THIS IS A CRUCIAL STEP*** We always, at this point, pour the batter through a fine-meshed sieve (called a chinoise here in France) into an empty water bottle (also using a funnel), although you can always pour it into any sort of bowl and / or pitcher. This step eliminates the lumps without toughing the batter. We have found an empty water bottle the perfect device for pouring the batter into the crêpe pan, and then storing any leftover batter in the fridge.

– You must then leave the batter to “rest” for at least one hour before using.

How to Cook Crêpes

– When the batter is sufficiently rested up, you oil a crêpe pan – while a regular Teflon style frying pan will do in a punch, a real crêpe pan makes a huge difference; they are actually concave which allows for better cooking – with a piece of paper towel (wiping off any visible traces of oil) and then heat up the pan so it is very hot.

– Pour your first crêpe, using just enough batter to cover the pan, tilt the pan this way and that to get maximum coverage. When you see bubbles popping in the middle of the crêpe, very similar to when you make pancakes, loosen the edges of the crêpe with a plastic or wooden spatlula and using your fingers flip it over to cook other side briefly (only about 30 seconds).


– Just for the record the first crêpe is usually very weird looking – this is normal. The following ones will always be better. I haven’t gotten to the bottom of this particular mystery yet.

– We usually do a round (or three) of savory crêpes filled with ham, grated cheese, and a few dabs of crème fraiche – these are all added in the pan on the flipped crepe so that they heat up and melt, fold the crêpe over in half on top of ingredients and serve.

Here I have prepared the savory ingredients, along with a nice little glass of Claire Naudin’s wonderful local red for the chef (this also helps with the February blues, by the way, though watch out as it would be all too easy to become an alcoholic in February).


– Then we do a round (or three) or dessert crêpes that we either fill with jams of any variety, sugar, or Nutella is you are in particular need of a mood boost.

I am very proud that I can now expertly flip crêpes just like any good French passport holder. However, as Charlotte informed me amidst gales of laughter “Maman, you have such a double menton when you do that!”

Sadly, she was not making reference to the lovely town of Menton on the French Riviera but rather pointing out how flipping crêpes gives me a whopper of a double chin. So go ahead and try to flip, but be warned that a blow to your vanity is the price you will have to pay for such culinary razzmatazz.

Maybe I do have a double menton, but I make damn good crêpes