Thursday, April 22, 2010

Alton Brown's Crepes

There's a wonderful little restaurant called La Creperie Cafe in the Belmont Shores district of Long Beach, Calif. This place has wonderful crepes -- sweet crepes, savory crepes, appetizer crepes, plain crepes, fancy crepes, you name it. They are delectable in every way, shape and form. Made from whole wheat (without the dry whole wheat mouth-feel), these crepes are the epitome of comfort food. My dear friend Jacky and his beautiful wife, Anne Marie, introduced my family to this restaurant. And, every time I go back to California, I insist on a visit. The atmosphere is great, too -- Bohemian French bistro (I wrote a restaurant review of it for Hungry? Family Edition -- Los Angeles.)
After my introduction to crepes, I searched for a recipe to try them at home. Alton Brown's aren't quite as good as La Creperie's, but they are still pretty good. And, I can't quite re-create the crepe carbonara to match the restaurant's, but whenever I make my version, I get compliments.
This recipe is great for savory and sweet crepes. I like to make a full batch, then split it and add the sweetness to half and the savory to the other half to feed my family of four.

Alton Brown's Crepes

2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
3 tbsp butter, melted
Butter for the pan

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse for 10 seconds (you may need to scrape down the sides partway through).
2. Refrigerate for 1 hour to allow air bubbles to release (if the batter has too many bubbles, the crepe will tear when you cook it).
3. Heat small non-stick pan. Add butter to coat. Pour 1 ounce of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 30 seconds and flip. Cook for another 10 seconds and remove to the cutting board. Lay them out flat so they can cool. Continue until all batter is gone.
4. After they have cooled you can stack them and store in sealable plastic bags in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for up to two months. When using frozen crepes, thaw on a rack before gently peeling apart.

Substitution Suggestions: For sweet crepes, add 2 1/2 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and 2 tbsp liqueur of choice (I use a few drops of almond extract instead of the liqueur). For savory crepes, add 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 cup herbs of choice (or sun-dried tomatoes or spinach).
I fill my savory crepes with a cheese sauce (made from a roux with added onion and garlic), grilled chicken and bacon. If I'm feeling ambitious, I'll also add mushrooms and olives.
For my sweet crepes, I'll use cinnamon sugar or bananas and Nutella and strawberries. The French usually eat them with a little jam. For more ideas and inspiration, visit and look at the menu.

Lessons Learned: Letting the batter sit for an hour really does make a difference.  I've tried it both ways, and letting the batter de-bubble really does affect how well the crepe holds together.
When you pour the batter and swirl it in the pan, let it sit over medium-high heat until the edges start to pull up. I jiggle the pan back and forth until it moves on its own. Once it does that, I flip it. You could use tongs or a fork, but you risk tearing the crepe. With a little practice, flipping becomes easy. (I was actually so aggressive with my flip on the most recent crepe night that I flipped it 360 instead of just 180!)
The sky is the limit when filling these. My kids like them with peanut butter. I like the carbonara. Next time, I might try taking inspiration from California Pizza Kitchen's menu to come up with a Thai crepe or something equally exotic.

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