Crepes

Crepes are one of those mysteries of life. It takes a bit of practice to get them right, but having a good base recipe and the right tools definitely helps the process along. While I have a favourite crepe stand at the Saturday market here in Belfast, it’s quite satisfying to make a bunch of them at home. I have three recipes for crepes: the standard, the savoury, and the sweet. They’re all variations on the same basic ingredient list, and there aren’t really any changes in the preparation.

A note on picking the right pan: Some dishes don’t really care what pan you use. Crepes are not one of those dishes. They’re French. They’re snooty. Pick a pan that is heavy, as this will provide good heat distribution. Look for the “shoulders” of the pan to be steep for pretty, round crepes, and for the sides to be short and flared out for you to flip it easily. Your crepes will love you for it, or, at least, tolerate your existence for long enough to provide a tasty meal.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup milk
1 cup flour
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons melted butter (plus a bit for the pan)

Hardware:
Crepe-approved pan
blender
refrigerator
spatula and additional flipping tool (a cake-frosting knife works really well if you happen to have one of those lying around)
covered bowl for early preparation storage, if you wish
cutting board
stove
large plastic sealable bags for storage, if you wish

Standard preparation:
Combine all ingredients in a blender and place on pulse setting for 10 seconds. Allow the batter to sit in the refrigerator for at least one hour; it will keep for up to 48 hours. You can leave the batter in the blender glass if you wish, or you can pour it into a covered bowl. The method really doesn’t matter, but it is important to let it rest so as to allow as many bubbles to escape as possible. Fewer bubbles mean fewer tears.

Heat your pan and add butter to coat the surface. Pour one ounce of the batter into the centre of the pan and swirl the pan to spread the batter evenly. Cook for 30 seconds and flip over. Cook for another 10 seconds and then lay flat on the cutting board to cool evenly.

Continue the process until all the batter is used.

Crepes can be stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator for a few days or the freezer for a couple of months. Make sure you allow frozen crepes to thaw lying flat before trying to separate and use them.

Savoury crepes:
original recipe +
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped herbs, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, etc.

Sweet crepes:
original recipe +
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons liqueur (whatever flavour you would enjoy)

Mushroom Crepe Cake

In my mind, it’s awfully hard to go wrong with crepes. Maybe it’s my French side sneaking out (I have the same issue with baguettes). Mushrooms are one of those foods I didn’t try until I was an adult. My mother told me they were gross, and my father was rather ambivalent to them. We never had mushrooms of any type in the house, and I steered away from them on menus because I never saw my parents eat them. As it turns out, I quite like mushrooms, much more so when crepes are involved.

Ingredients:
1 cup diced yellow onions
3 tablespoons butter (plus a bit to butter the sheet pan)
2/3 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced thinly
1/3 pound cremini mushrooms (dice half finely, slice half thinly)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 ounces milk
1/2 cup mild white cheese (mozzarella or provolone is best), shredded
2 tablespoons chives, thinly sliced

1/4 cup parmesan, shredded

Hardware:
large saute pan
knives
wooden spoon
ladle or scooping spoon
sheet pan
cutting board (or other surface)

oven with broiler

Directions:

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the saute pan and add the onion to sweat. Add all the mushrooms and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. While stirring with the wooden spoon, season the mixture with salt and pepper. Cook on medium heat until the mushrooms are soft.

Add the milk and allow to simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the white cheese and melt into the milk. You should have a creamy consistency (think of the middle of a pot-pie).

Butter the sheet pan and layer two crepes to form the bottom layer. The original recipe called for only one crepe, but I’ve found that the bottom one sometimes sticks. If you over-butter, it doesn’t stick, but it stays soggy. Having an extra crepe is a much better choice.

Spread a thin layer of the mushroom mix onto the crepes with the ladle. Sprinkle a few chives. Lay another crepe on top, spread more filling, and top with a few more chives. Repeat the process until you have run out of mushroom filling. Place one more crepe on top and sprinkle with parmesan.

Place under the broiler of your oven until the parmesan is melted and golden. Remove from pan and place onto cutting surface. Slice cake into wedges and serve immediately.