Crepes and Galettes

My perspective on the crêpe/crepe/galette* has changed a bit since the Orbit’s days. For one thing, they went through quite a trendy period in the US, what with crepe stands showing up on boardwalks and in shopping centers (and now likely in food truck form) and becoming a hot new hand food, again. So they seem less an Orbit’s thing to me now (silly, I know) and more a part of a larger, completely opaque to me at the time, North American crepe resurgence. Also, I’ve sampled this classic food wrap in places as unlikely as Auckland, Stuttgart and Edinburgh and as stereotypical as Paris and Strasbourg. I’ve learned to love a wide variety of crepes.

Another change? I use a far wider variety of grains now. Of course, buckwheat is the classic grain for the galette, and white flour is the preferred foundation for the crepe. But Kamut (khorasan wheat), rye, whole-wheat and multi-grain flours—and others, I’m sure—are all wonderful in crepes. Proportions vary depending on the grain, but shoot for about 40% interesting grain to 60% white flour (for a total of 4 cups) and flex from there. Play around with it! Cooking isn’t serious, and you get to eat your (often delicious) mistakes.

Also: skip the silly, expensive crepe pan. I mean, if you’re rich, and have unlimited counter or storage space, get yourself a no-shit crepe griddle. But if you’re like me, and you just want to make crepes now and then and don’t want a single-purpose cooking implement in the house, whip out an inexpensive, non-stick, 10-inch or so pan and get yourself ready to make crepes.

What follows is the recipe we used at the restaurant. We settled on a 50/50 corn meal/white flour mix; adjust this as you please and experiment to your heart’s content. This makes a decent-sized stack of crepes—about 18, maybe?—just stack them on a plate as you take them out of the pan and when you’re done, you’ll have tonight’s dinner plus a stack of crepes you can wrap up, right there on the plate, and store. They keep beautifully and re-heat like a dream.

Prep time: about 6 minutes to make the batter

Cooking time: Call it about 1/2 an hour or so

Musical accompaniment: Take the Skinheads Bowling by Camper Van Beethoven, Banana Pancakes by Jack Johnson, anything by Edith Piaf

  • 2 cups white flour
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 5 cups milk (whole, lowfat, whatever)

You can do this the way I did it: throw the dry ingredients, eggs, oil and 3 cups of the milk into the Cuisinart and whirl until mixed, and pour into a bowl and mix in the remaining 2 cups of milk by hand. Or you can do the whole thing into the Kitchenaid, and mix. Or, I suppose, if you shun the electric assistance, you can do the whole thing by hand. It’s essentially pancake batter, right? Do what you please.

Unlike pancakes, though, these won’t rise a bit, and you want them to be thin. So, get your pan hot on a medium-high flame (you’ll probably back this down a bit as you go along, so be watchful) and heat a little oil (we’re talking about a teaspoon or so).

Once the pan is hot, roll the heated oil around a bit by taking the pan off the flame and rotating your wrist. Get used to this panhandling, because crepe making is all about keeping things moving. Then, ladle about a 1/4 cup of batter into the pan and immediately start the lifting, wrist-rotating motion so that the batter completely and evenly covers the bottom of the pan. Now, watch. You’ll see the batter cook. If it needs more rotating—you’ll know by noticing if there’s pooled batter in the center of the pan—rotate some more.

Once the batter is cooked on one side, just this first time, take a spatula and tenderly, carefully, lift an edge, slide your spatula under it and flip it over. The first one often sticks a little, so the spatula crutch is necessary. Don’t get used to it. After the first one, you’re gonna flip them with the power of your wrist. And your mind.

You’ll be able to tell when the crepe is ready to come out of the pan. It’ll just look and smell cooked. The second side doesn’t take long, so don’t screw it up. When the time comes, just slide that puppy right onto the waiting plate.

Now, add a little oil to your pan and do it all again. This time, though, your pan is nice and evenly heated, the oil has done its magic, and when flipping time comes you can lift the pan off the stove, and, holding it parallel to the stove surface, push it away from you quickly and then, slightly less quickly (but still, move fast), bring it back toward you in an upward, then downward, arc. Executed correctly, this should launch the crepe off the back edge of the pan, creating a “c”, open side facing you, as it leaves the surface of the pan, and then dropping back into the pan onto the uncooked side.

If you’ve never done this before, it sounds difficult. It’s really not. Try it. It’s a small thing, but it makes making crepes more fun, and it’s a good skill to have for general sautéing, omelette making and such. Bonus: You’ll look like a badass.

Once you’ve made your way through the batter, you’ll have a stack of gorgeous, fresh crepes to do with as you wish. They’re terrific spread with cheese, filled with vegetables, or wrapped around pesto, hummus, slices of prosciutto, mustard, olive tapenade, caramelized onions, roasted eggplant…really whatever you can imagine. If you add a little dried spice, hot sauce, chopped capers or other wonderfulness to the batter before cooking, you expand your options even more. Sweeten the batter, and make it with white flour, and you’ve opened up dessert possibilities. Spread with jam or chocolate (or both!) these babies are the perfect sweet fix. Hell, the recipe as written is fine for dessert, too, just a little less delicate that you might prefer with your peaches and cream. Think of it as a hippie dessert and you’ll love it.

And the best part is that you’ve made a decent-sized batch, so anytime in the next week or so, you can pull one out, throw it in a pan and have a filled crepe in minutes. Voilà!

*In the interest of being precise: If you use buckwheat flour, you’re making galettes. Anything else is a crepe.

From my MFA thesis, The Cook, the Eater and the Writer