While the humble crêpe has fallen in and out of fashion, what I have observed is that eyes light up whenever they are served.
Be it a simple supper, or elaborate dessert, there is always room for crêpes.
When the kids get their choice of breakfasts, it is often crêpes they request. They were the first things they made themselves when allowed to actually cook on the stove, and they love making them still. They also love filling and eating them!
I have several recipes: my mother’s, my mother-in-law’s (hers used lobster!) and my own recipe I’ve fiddled with over the years to make them (I’m whispering now…) healthy – by swapping out the white flour with King Arthur’s white, whole-wheat flour, substituting canola oil for the melted butter, and using low-fat milk, you can serve these up to your family without guilt, especially during the holiday season when we are all shaking our heads a bit at the season’s indulgences! They are every bit as tender as white flour crêpes, and have a slightly nutty flavor.
What I like best about this dish is that everyone can pick their own filling! My grandson loves his with cheese or something savory, while his sister has the sweet tooth and prefers hers with fruit and yoghurt, perhaps a little chocolate sauce. Mom often served them to us in the morning with just a layer of jam tucked inside!
Crêpes keep for several days in the refrigerator, and freeze nicely as well, so you can have some on hand for a quick meal, and the meal need not be breakfast! We love them for a simple supper, or, perhaps a ladies’ lunch stuffed with a something special like smoked salmon, or creamy seafood and mushrooms.
You can fill these with just about anything! I’ve included a few quick suggestions, but use whatever your imagination likes best. In my book, they never go out of style! They take seconds to put together, and if you do this the night before and refrigerate, you will have better texture.
The basic crêpes:
3 large eggs, or 2 duck eggs
¾ cup milk, any % or non-dairy
½ cup water
1 up white, whole-wheat flour
3 tbsp. canola oil
Pinch of salt
Place all the ingredients in a blender and mix just until well combined. With a small spatula, check that there is no flour sticking to the sides. If no blender, whisk well. Let the mixture set for a half hour while you prepare fillings. The batter is best if you make it the night before, and doing so will save you time in the morning.
To make the crêpes, heat an 8” omelet or crêpe pan, non-stick works best, but a seasoned cast iron pan is good too. The pan I use is non-stick, 8” on top, but the bottom is 6” so that is the size of the crêpes.
Heat the pan over medium high. Traditionally, brush with bacon grease lightly, or use canola oil. Add the batter with a 1½ -ounce ladle. It should be thin enough to cover the bottom of the pan, with a gentle tilting and twirling around. If not, add a little more water.
You can use a much larger pan if you like, adjusting the amount of batter you pour in. After a few, you’ll get the feel of both the amount to use and the heat setting of your stove.
Let the crêpe cook a minute or so, until set. There should be no wet batter on top, it will lose its sheen and look dull. It should shake easily in the pan with the edges loosened. Turn when slightly browned, and cook for another 30 seconds or so. Flip them out so the first browned side will be presented when rolled or folded; it always presents the best! Depending on the filling them, either roll them up, or fold in half over part of the filling, then fold again into triangles. This makes about 18 crepes.
Our family’s favorite for brunch or dinner is a seafood crêpe. You can use whatever is fresh and delicious at the fish market, but I like a combination of wild Gulf shrimp and wild, dry sea or Nantucket scallops, perhaps with a little crab meat just for good measure.
Seafood Crêpes with Sherry Mushroom Sauce
These directions include the step-by-step if you are using the trimmings of everything to make your own stock, which is usually done by the time I need it, since this recipe goes fast. I you are not so inclined to make your own, just use a flavorful fish or vegetable stock. You can substitute leeks or onion for the shallots. Use what you like for seafood, you might want all scallops, all shrimp, or even all crabmeat or lobster! For a more budget friendly version, leave out the scallops and double up on the mushrooms. It will still be wonderful!
1 tbsp. each olive oil and butter
2 shallots, finely minced
8 oz. shiitake or other mushroom, sliced
¼ cup sweet red pepper, finely minced
1 celery stalk, finely minced
2 tsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup dry sherry or port
3 tbsp. flour
3 cups *Fish or vegetable stock
1 lb. dry sea scallops
1 lb. wild shrimp, 16-20
1 tsp. fresh minced tarragon or parsley
The prep: Peel and devein the shrimp. I usually save the shells and make my own stock for this recipe; it’s amazing how much flavor they hold. Add the shells to a small saucepan, and slice the shrimps in half lengthwise.
Remove the muscle from the sea scallops and cut into quarters or halves, depending on size. If you are using Nantucket bays, leave them whole. Return the seafood to the refrigerator until ready to use.
Mince the shallots, and place the trimmings in the saucepan. Trim the mushrooms, slice, and place the stems in the saucepan.
Dice the red pepper and celery stalks finely, and add any celery leaves or trimmings to the saucepan. (Are you in the routine yet?)
Add 3 cups of water or so to the pan, place over high heat with a little salt and pepper and a bay leaf, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, covered. This only needs to cook about 20 to 30 minutes and you can strain it.
In a large skillet over medium high, heat the oil and butter and sauté the shallots, mushroom, red pepper, and celery until everything is soft, just starting to brown on the edges. Add the tomato paste and stir it in well, cooking it for a minute or so.
Add the sherry, and stir vigorously until it is reduced to nothing but its flavor memory. Sprinkle with flour, mix again, then add the stock.
Bring this to a boil, reduce the heat and let it thicken and cook for about 10 minutes on low heat. Turn up the heat to a steamy simmer, add the seafood, mix it in well and cook for about one minute, no more. Cover, and remove from the heat. Let this poach off the heat for 10 minutes, no peeking inside! This gentle cook is perfect for seafood.
Fill the crepes and either roll or fold into triangle shapes. Do not overfill or they will be difficult to eat. Top with a bit more of the sauce mixture, and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with a side salad or light vegetable.
These are rich and should serve eight. Of course, I think two are plenty, while my husband could eat four easily!
Fruit and Yoghurt Crêpes – One sweet way to serve these is to fill with fresh seasonal fruit and some yoghurt or ricotta. Our house yoghurt is local Green Mountain Creamery non-fat plain yoghurt, which is rich and naturally sweet. Add a little vanilla extract if you want a bit more sweetness. Of course, if you are making these for dessert, you can use whipped cream here!
These crêpes are great with sliced strawberries or peaches, but in Autumn, pears and cranberries are delicious and in abundance. Chop up a few of them and mix with yoghurt or ricotta for the filling.
To add more flavor, grate some of the zest from an orange directly into the batter, and if you’d like an adult twist, mix the ricotta with a little Grand Marnier or other orange liquor.
Buckwheat Crêpes – My mother made these with ham and Gruyère cheese. Using the basic crêpe batter recipe, swap out a third of a cup of the flour with buckwheat flour.
Gluten-Free Crêpes – I’ve also made these with rice flour or gluten-free mix, and they are pretty good, although their texture is not quite as soft, and you’ve got to be really careful of them cracking. If they crack, top them with a little extra fruit!