In another life, I spent a summer waitressing at a crepe restaurant in cottage country. This was a year or so after a crepe restaurant would open up on a very busy intersection in the city I grew up in, and a few years before I would move to a city where yet another crepe restaurant would open up. Somehow, crepes have always been hovering around me, like a smack of jellyfish in the Pacific Ocean during a night-time dive. Moreover, all these places have seemed to do well, notably without my patronage. I enjoyed my time serving crepes, not because I thought they were particularly good, but I enjoyed the challenge of being perky while remembering who needs more coffee and balancing three plates on one arm.
So when a friend came over one Sunday afternoon, and the thought floated into my head that we should make crepes, I didn’t really realize its historical underpinnings. Being a classical French recipe, we decided a good place to start would be my secondhand original edition of Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking. Alas, Mrs. David’s recipe was certainly from a different time; the way she listed the ingredients was thus: “2 large eggs, their weight (which will be 4 to 5 oz.) in butter, flour and sugar, and about 1/4 pint of milk, a tablespoon of rum, salt.”
In my crepe-starved state, I couldn’t wrap my head around this. It sounds simple enough now, but the confusion due to low blood pressure in the moment was too great, and we sheepishly defected to a recipe from allrecipes.com – possibly the most polar opposite to Mrs. David’s refined and laid-back sensibility, but time was ticking before a full-on hunger tantrum would explode.
Regardless, the crepes we made were incredible and delicious – and easy to make! Now I’m starting to see a glimpse into why a crepe restaurant would be so alluring to a potential restauranteur: a basic crepe recipe, multitudinous fillings, a dash of nostalgia and Parisian whimsy…a sweet and buttery dream.
We filled ours with Nutella and strawberries, or peanut butter and bananas, scattered with sliced almonds. The recipe made a substantial stack of crepes, so for the following days every breakfast consisted of a reheated crepe smothered in Nutella, folded into quarters, and eaten with my hands. This ritual triggered the resurfacing of another buried memory: eating the most gargantuan crepe of Nutella and bananas while walking through the streets of Paris with my friends a few years ago, and feeling like I was going to throw up at 10 in the morning because it was so good I couldn’t stop.
makes 8-20, depending on size
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter, melted
Whisk everything together. It might be a little lumpy, so let it sit for 30 minutes to let the lumps hydrate and soften and then whisk again. Place a heavy frying pan (preferably non-stick) with low sides on medium-high heat. Use a brush to apply a thin layer of butter on the bottom of the pan. Pour about 1/3 cup of batter into the pan and immediately start swirling the batter around so it evens out across the pan. Let it cook (3-5 min) until it is fully cooked on one side before confidently flipping with a spatula. Stack on a plate until you are ready to fill.