Today I’d like to share with you a French tradition that has become well-established in our household. This is the soirée crêpes, or crêpe night, and it is really a lot of fun with kids, when good friends are over, or anytime.
Like most Americans, you probably think of pancakes and crêpes as breakfast or dessert food, but there is no need to stop there.
Here’s how it works. You make a big old bowl of crêpe batter, which is very forgiving in terms of quantities. When I asked my husband his recipe (he’s the crêpe chef in our house), he said it’s all about watching the texture. You want it to be about the consistency of heavy cream, so add a little more flour or a little more milk or water until you get the right consistency.
- 2 cups of flour (whole wheat or buckwheat also work great but you will need a bit more liquid)
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil, more for oiling the pan
Whisk ingredients together and set aside. Resting the batter for at least 1 hour is recommended but not necessary. Will keep in the refrigerator overnight.
Next, get a pile of ingredients that you would like to put in your crêpes. Think savory and sweet. In France, you would get some of the following:
- On the salty side, thinly sliced ham, eggs, gruyère cheese, sautéed mushrooms and onions.
- On the sweet side, butter, sugar, nutella, banana, lemon juice, jam.
That said, you can put anything your heart desires in these. Leftover chicken? Use it. Smoked salmon and cream cheese? Yum. Even hot dogs are great in crêpes. I do recommend putting a bit of cheese in all of the savory ones, though, to help bind it.
Now start making your crêpes. This is the most labor intensive part but it’s kind of fun and you can do it in advance if you have guests coming. Make a very thin layer of batter on a hot, oiled pan. If you cannot get a thin layer, add more milk or water to your batter. Don’t forget that the first one (usually ugly) is always eaten by the chef! Turn them with a spatula or butter knife when the edges start turning golden. Stack finished crêpes on a plate. While you’re working you can cover your stack with tin foil and a dish towel or put it in a warm oven.
When the kids or guests arrive, gather around the skillet and pick your fillings. Each person puts his/her crêpe back on the skillet with a bit of butter and folds ingredients up, leaving it just long enough to melt the cheese or warm the ingredients. The way they fold them on the streets of Paris for easy portability is once in half, and then in half again, so you end up with a pie wedge shape which they give to you wrapped in a napkin. Start with savory fillings and move to sweet. If you want to get really authentic, serve them with hard cider (in earthenware bowls). This is the way it’s done in Bretagne, where crêpes are native and crêperies abound.
Be aware that this is not a great sit-down dinner menu since everyone will be running back and forth to the kitchen but it’s really fun and everyone gets exactly what they want! My personal favorites are ham/gruyère and beurre sucre or butter/sugar. For the butter/sugar, be sure to heat the crêpe long enough that the sugar begins melting into the butter. Heaven…
Any remaining crêpes can be stored in the refrigerator on a plate with cellophane over the top.