Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.
Do You Like Street Foods?
One of the delights of traveling to another country is being able to enjoy the local cuisine, and street vendors are an easy and inexpensive way to do just that. It’s not a new concept; in ancient Greece, vendors sold fried fish, Egyptians had lamb kebabs, and the Aztecs sold something very similar to the tamale. Today visit any city in Italy and you are sure to find a gelato stand. The streets of Belgium are filled with the aroma of crispy pommes frites. Tourists in Vietnam rhapsodize over memories of their first banh mi, and in France, the ubiquitous food in every neighborhood is the crêpe.
Let's take a moment and learn the origins of this delicate pancake that can be served with a dusting of powdered sugar, or filled to create a sweet treat, a fun but easy breakfast/brunch dish, or a savory dinner.
Was the Crêpe a Culinary Happy Accident?
The earliest form of Brie was purportedly created by accident in the Middle East. The story goes that a nomad filled his saddlebag with milk before embarking on a long horseback journey. His animal carcass saddlebag was lined with rennet (an enzyme also called rennin or chymosin) and the combination with the milk created a watery liquid (whey) and solid, white lumps (curds) that was an ancestor, perhaps, of the first Brie.
It is said that centuries ago, a young man in Italy, a cheese apprentice, was distracted by love, and left his cheese curds unattended overnight. To hide his oversight, the next morning he mixed them with fresh curds, but a few weeks later he noticed that the batch was turning blue. The mistake could no longer be hidden, but it proved to be a happy accident, and Gorgonzola was born . . . or something like that. (Oddly enough, the French have a similar story for the creation of Roquefort.)
Ruth Wakefield was the co-owner/operator of the Toll House Inn in Massachusetts. Her husband took care of the business end of the operation, and Ruth did all of the cooking and baking. One evening she decided to adapt her vanilla butter cookie recipe by stirring in a bar of Nestle chocolate that she had broken into shards. She assumed that the chocolate would melt, but as you know, those chunks of chocolate maintained their shape, and chocolate chip cookies were “invented.”
And then, there’s the story of the crêpe. According to legend, wheat is a tender crop that cannot grow in the northern parts of France, but buckwheat was found to be a hardy substitute. It worked quite well as a nourishing and filling bowl of porridge at the start of the day. One morning, while ladling portions into bowls, a bit of the cereal fell onto the hot stovetop where in moments it crisped. Rather than simply toss it out, the cook sampled it and found it not only edible but quite tasty and satisfying—so the kitchen elves gave us crêpes.
How to Make Crêpes
1. Basic Crêpe Recipe
Ingredients (enough for 8 crepes)
- 2/3 cup milk
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup flour
- Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.
- Refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Prepare a parking spot for your finished crêpes. A large sheet of parchment paper on the countertop next to your cooking station is ideal.
- Heat a medium-size saute pan over medium heat (the one I use is about 8 inches across). Brush melted butter on the bottom of the pan and ladle in about 1/4 cup of batter into the center of the pan. Swirl quickly to evenly distribute the batter to the edges of the pan. Cook until the edges begin to brown and curl, about 1 minute.
- Carefully slide a spatula under the middle of the crêpe and flip over to cook the other side. This will take just a few seconds. Quickly flip the cooked crêpe out of the pan onto the parchment paper to cool.
- Continue with the remaining batter.
- Set aside to cool.
2. Vegan Crêpes
Before we delve into the world of sweet and/or savory crêpe fillings, I would like to offer my friends who are vegan, allergic to eggs, or lactose intolerant an alternative to the traditional milk and egg-rich crêpe batter. These vegan crêpes are light as a cloud, but dairy- and egg-free.
3. Apple Walnut Crêpes
These crêpes are loaded with a delicious apple walnut filling and then topped with powdered sugar. As the apple and walnut filling is simmering in the saucepan, the smell is amazing. Nothing says fall like the aroma that fills a kitchen with the smell of delicious fall desserts.
4. Banana Crêpes
These delicate banana crêpes are stuffed with a blend of cream cheese, sour cream, and powdered sugar to create a cheesecake-like filling. Top them with banana slices simmered in a rich butter/brown sugar sauce.
5. Blueberry Lemon Curd Crêpes
There's something magical about the combination of lemon curd and blueberries and those two flavors combine in these blueberry lemon curd crêpes for a sweet-tart brunch entree. If you've never made lemon curd, don't worry; Diane shares her step-by-step recipe (may I say that it's easy-peasy lemon squeezy)? Leftovers (if there are any) can be stored in the refrigerator for a week.
6. Boston Cream Pie Crêpes
The Boston cream pie (in case you've never had the pleasure of eating a slice), is not a pie at all—it's a decadent sponge cake filled with custard cream and topped with a rich dark chocolate ganache. These Boston cream crêpes are just as sinfully decadent, but so much simpler to make.
7. Pumpkin Crêpes
Only four ingredients are needed to make the filling for these pumpkin crêpes. Even easier—you can "bake" the crêpes and make the filling ahead of time. Store covered in the refrigerator and then assemble just before serving for a quick brunch dish or a delightful autumn dessert.
8. Chicken Broccoli Stuffed Crêpe Casserole
Casseroles are a busy person's best friend; a meal of chicken and broccoli crêpes in one bake-and-serve dish—what's not to love about that? Topped off with a rich Bechamel sauce and Gruyere cheese, this chicken broccoli casserole is the very definition of comfort food. In fact, it is so delicious, flavorful, and filling, your family will be begging you to make this casserole on a regular basis.
9. Easy Crêpes Eggs Benedict
I love eggs Benedict but must admit that I've never been a fan of the English muffins on the bottom. They just don't work well (for me) as a knife and fork food. Here's a European twist on the classic American breakfast. Edyta replaces English muffins with tender crêpes. There's only one problem—these crêpes eggs Benedict sinfully addictive.
10. Salmon, Prawn, and Charred Corn Crêpes
Seafood crêpes are a four-star quality fine-dining meal that you can make in your own kitchen. These delicate salmon, prawn, and charred corn crêpes are baked to a crisp dedication perfection and take only 45 minutes to prepare. Chef Claire serves them with a creamy dill sauce.
11. Spinach Crêpes
These spinach crêpes have all of the flavors of Italian manicotti without the fuss. Golden crêpes take the place of pasta tubes which are stuffed with a savory blend of ricotta cheese and spinach, and then covered with a rich bechamel sauce. A spoonful (or two) of marinara is optional but adds a bright pop of flavor and color.
12. Turkey Mushroom Swiss Crêpes
These savory crêpes are different from the others that have been presented in this article. Dawn stirs fresh and dried herbs, lemon zest, and a pinch of red pepper flakes into her crêpe batter. Every bite of these turkey mushroom Swiss crêpes is full of flavor.
© 2021 Linda Lum