Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The making of your crepes

What is it, really, that makes your boyfriend’s sweater feel warmer? It’s made up of the same stuff as yours is, or so says the tag. Just cotton, and the fine handiwork of someone from Hong Kong. But there is something distinctly different about wearing that big brown sweater of his, as opposed to any of your own.

There is an intangible comfort to this cotton. Sure, someone points out, the act of wearing your boyfriend’s clothing could be analyzed as within a certain gender-role paradigm. That his lending it to you is a symbol of his being a good provider, a man taking care of his woman. That a heavy sweater could be taken even more literally, as a physical representation of bodily protection. That often, in heterosexual couples, men have bigger builds than women do, that body size has been traditionally associated with strength, and that by donning your boyfriend’s sweater is to revel in this inequity of size, a subtle act of submission.

Oh, maybe, but there’s more to it than that. There is the point where the tangible and the intangible meet up. There is, oh please take, for example: the length of its sleeves. The ends of each arm reach the middle of your thumb, and they make for a convenient guard against, say, the heat of the handle of your crepe pan. This built-in mitt means the making of your crepes go so much more smoothly, more serenely, than when having to reach for a kitchen towel every two minutes. “The making of your crepes” – it’s such a solitary, easy pleasure. There is nothing, really, that could beat this warmth – in front of your stove, in ripped jeans and socked feet, and your boyfriend’s sweater.

Crepes with Spinach, Mushrooms, Thyme and Avgolemono Sauce

I really enjoy this dish. There is quite a number of steps, but they are not difficult, and it’s a true pleasure to watch as the pieces come together. The dark earthy green of the spinach is complemented, both on the plate and on the palate, by the bright lemon tang of the avgolemono sauce. (The real key for the latter being a very good chicken broth – there are only three ingredients, and its flavor plays a key part in the success of the sauce.)


1/2 cup flour

2 eggs, beaten

1 tablespoon melted butter

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

melted butter, for cooking


1 small onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tablespoons butter, separated

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon dried thyme

10 ounces frozen spinach, de-thawed and drained

8 ounces white mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced

handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped


1/3 cup chicken broth

1 large egg

1/8 cup lemon juice

For the crepes:

Whisk together all ingredients to form a smooth, thin batter. Let the batter rest, for at least thirty minutes, before cooking the crepes. (This would be a good time, say, to chop the onions, garlic, and mushrooms for the filling.)

Heat a small skillet over medium heat; when hot, brush lightly with butter. Pour about ¼ cup of batter into the pan. Pick up pan, and give it a good circular tilt, so that the batter coats the bottom evenly. Cook until golden brown on bottom – that is, until the top begins to look dry, about one or two minutes. Carefully turn crepe over (I use my fingers; once the bottom has set, it’s actually easier to flip than a breakfast pancake) and cook the second side until the bottom colors lightly, about thirty seconds. Transfer to a plate, and repeat with the remaining batter.

I usually get eight crepes out of these proportions. Don’t lose heart if the first crepe doesn’t turn out right – it’s just a matter of learning just the right heat, and just how much batter you should use. In fact, it’s kind of a bonus if the first crepe is botched. It makes a nice, chewy snack while you work on the rest.

For the filling:

In the same pan, cook the onion and garlic over moderately low heat, stirring until softened. Add the flour, and cook, stirring, so that it evenly coats the garlic and onions.

Adding the milk to the pan in a stream, cooking and stirring continuously until the mixture has thickened. I like to do this a few tablespoons at a time, adding more milk as the sauce becomes thick. Stir in the nutmeg, thyme, a little salt, and some freshly ground pepper. Add the spinach and mushrooms, and cook until heated through.

Keep the filling warm while you prepare the sauce, which comes together quickly. I kept the crepes and the filling, separately, in a low oven.

For the sauce:

In a small saucepan, bring the broth to a boil.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg and juice together. Once the broth is heated, add half of it to the eggs, in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Whisk this mixture into the remaining broth on the stove.

Heat the sauce until thickened slightly, but be careful not to let it boil. The idea is that the heat only thickens, not cooks the egg. Once the sauce has thickened a bit, add salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble crepes by putting a few heaping spoonfuls of filling into the crepes. Last night, this made for four very stuffed crepes. I think these proportions could easily stretch to six crepes, which makes for three lemony-spinachy-mushroomy crepes each for two happy people.

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