Archive for Wednesday, November 3, 1999

BAD FADS MAKE CRAPPY CREPES

November 3, 1999

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We should have seen it coming. A few years ago, when "wraps" became the thing, it stood to reason that a crepe revival was close behind. Although crepes have a long way to go to reclaim the popularity they enjoyed 20 years ago, we're seeing more of them on menus and in the food press than we have for some time.

Crepes were nothing new, even when they were novel to most people. The Crepes Suzette had been a French dessert standard forever. However, most Americans got into the crepe groove during the heyday of the Magic Pan restaurant chain, which cranked out crepes like hot cakes and then went belly up. Every metropolis had a Magic Pan -- there was one on the Country Club Plaza -- and the lines of people waiting to get in often were long.

In the 1970s, a crepe pan was standard kitchen equipment. If crepes really catch on again, there undoubtedly will be many cooks who wish they hadn't unloaded their crepe pan in a garage sale.

Although there are variations, including some with Teflon coating, the basic crepe pan is a flat-bottomed skillet with low, sloping sides. People who disdain gadgetry or simply have a good, seasoned skillet they like to work with can make do without the authentic equipment. The ends, not the means, are important.

The appeal of the crepe and the wrap are the same: The filling can be anything that can be rolled up inside, though the crepe usually requires a sauce as well. This appeals to the whimsy and creativity of the adventuresome cook. However, the crepe is distinguished by its pastry. While a wrap can be done up in a flour tortilla, a crepe must be made from a crepe batter. Crepe filling also traditionally includes a sauce.

Crepe batter, whether it be sweet for dessert crepes or plain for entree crepes, is unleavened and made with egg. The crepe itself is thin and light.

Although crepes probably don't deserve the reputation they developed for being difficult, making them does take some practice. A well-made crepe requires a coordinated performance by the batter, the heat, the pan and the cook. Cooks often have a preferred technique. Some dip the bottom of the skillet into the batter and hold the pan upside down over the flame or burner of the stove. Others pour the batter into the pan.

The no-no's of crepe-making are having batter that's too thick or lumpy, overcooking and letting the crepes get soggy. None of these problems is without an easy solution. Lumps can be removed by pouring the batter through a sieve. Overcooking can be prevented by not doing it and sogginess, which is a problem with crepes that aren't baked, can be prevented by not filling them until just before serving.

Below is a typical recipe for a chicken-filled dinner crepe, which I found in an old cookbook, "Creative Crepe Cookery" (Ottenheimer). Although some old crepe recipes suggest using canned sauces or soups, the results will be more authentic with more authentic ingredients.

Crepes

1 making them does take some practice. A well-made crepe requires a coordinated performance by the batter, the heat, the pan and the cook. Cooks often have a preferred technique. Some dip the bottom of the skillet into the batter and hold the pan upside down over the flame or burner of the stove. Others pour the batter into the pan.

The no-no's of crepe-making are having batter that's too thick or lumpy, overcooking and letting the crepes get soggy. None of these problems is without an easy solution. Lumps can be removed by pouring the batter through a sieve. Overcooking can be prevented by not doing it and sogginess, which is a problem with crepes that aren't baked, can be prevented by not filling them until just before serving.

Below is a typical recipe for a chicken-filled dinner crepe, which I found in an old cookbook, "Creative Crepe Cookery" (Ottenheimer). Although some old crepe recipes suggest using canned sauces or so diced

1 cup cooked ham, diced

hentic with more authentic ingredients.

Crepes

1 making them does take some practice. A well-made crepe requires a coordinated performance by the batter, the heat, the pan and the cook. Cooks often have a preferred technique. Some dip the bottom of the skillet into the batter and hold the pan upside down over the flame or burner of the stove. Others pour the batter into the pan.

The no-no's of crepe-making are having batter that's too thick or lumpy, overcooking and letting the crepes get soggy. None of these problems is without an easy solution. Lumps can be removed by pouring the batter through a sieve. Overcooking can be prevented by not doing it and sogginess, which is a problem with crepes that aren't baked, can be prevented by not filling them until just before serving.

Below is a typical recipe for a chicken-filled dinner crepe, which I found in an old cookbook, "Creative Crepe Cookery" (Ottenheimer). Although some old crepe recipes suggest using canned sauces or so

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