Snacks

Tomato Fried Eggs: A Chinese Comfort Food by Anne Livingston

How much comfort can you get from a different culture’s comfort foods? I wondered this when I started cooking at a girls’ international boarding house a couple of years ago. I distributed questionnaires to the girls and chatted with them about their favorite “homesick” foods. 

With the Chinese girls in particular, I was impressed by the depth of our culinary differences in their answers. Chicken feet! Preserved duck eggs! Fish balls! Beans for dessert! So many wonderful things they listed were beyond what I’d even heard of. Although I had trouble wrapping my mind around preparing a couple of dishes (prepping the chicken feet the first time was difficult), I loved almost every new dish I tried cooking, with the help of the girls’ advice, YouTube videos, and the kindness of a couple of Chinese women. I never fully mastered any one dish.  At least, however, I developed an appreciation and respect for real Chinese food, as elusive as it still is to me.

One of the dishes that came up in conversations and questionnaires was something called “tomato eggs.” I looked it up online, but as simple as the recipe sounded, I wanted real-life help. The school’s Mandarin teacher graciously came in to show me how to cook it while she was in between classes. Thanks to her and a few practice runs with good response from the girls, I feel like I have the hang of at least one authentic Chinese comfort food recipe, using ingredients found in many American kitchens.

And how is it as a comfort food? Oh, it hits the spot just right. Luxurious texture. Bold flavors. And yet the simple preparation and the short ingredient list make it as comforting as a plate of mac & cheese. You’ve got to try this if you like tomatoes and eggs. When prepared properly, the sum is so much greater than its parts.  Give it a whirl sometime this summer when you have extra tomatoes and want to try something new for breakfast (or lunch! Or dinner!). I feel like making it again, right now.

Tomato Fried Eggs

Serves 3

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup high heat oil, such as canola or sunflower
  • 2 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 3 or 4 roma tomatoes, or 2 larger tomatoes, chopped in large chunks, about 3/4”
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

 Directions:

  1. Beat the eggs with the soy sauce and the white pepper. In another small bowl, whisk the cornstarch in with 2 tablespoons of water.
  2. Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of the oil to the pan. When the oil shimmers, add the scallions and the eggs. Stir the eggs and scallions around quickly with a spatula, until almost completely cooked. Remove the eggs to a plate.
  3. Wipe out the wok or skillet, return it to the burner, and add the remainder of the oil. Add the tomatoes and sprinkle the salt and sugar over them. Cook for 1 minute, stirring with the spatula. Stir in the cornstarch slurry to thicken the juices, about 30 seconds.
  4. Return the eggs back to the pan, gently stir them in with the tomatoes, and serve immediately.

Butternut Squash Risotto by Anne

Squash, Saffron Threads, & Arborio Rice

 

This recipe is a vegetarian modification of The Barefoot Contessa's Butternut Squash Risotto recipe.  If you wish to revel in your omnivorousness, use chicken stock and also add a bit of pancetta or bacon to sauté with the shallots.  I'm sharing this recipe as step 1 to making butternut squash arancini (risotto fritters), but the risotto is delicious as its own dish.  I'll add the fritter-y step tomorrow. 

This dish would taste lovely in a dinner that includes a light spinach salad, braised leeks, grilled shrimp, and/or many kinds of pork dishes.  Also, if you like sage, it would taste delicious in this risotto or in an accompanying dish as well. 

Butternut Squash Risotto

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups of peeled, seeded, and cubed (3/4 inch) butternut squash
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 6 to 8 cups vegetable stock, preferably homemade (chicken stock is also good)
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter  
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • ½ tsp marjoram, crushed with your fingers or a mortar and pestle.
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Toss squash on a cookie sheet with the olive oil and 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper. Roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender. Do not let the squash dry out.  Set aside.
  3. Heat the stock on the back burner over low heat.  Keep warm during the risotto cooking process.
  4. Put 1 tsp. salt and the saffron threads into a mortar and pestle or a small bowl with a spoon.  Crush the saffron into the salt until the threads have been finely broken up.
  5.  Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a heavy-bottomed pot. Sauté the shallots just until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the rice, stirring to incorporate the grains with the butter and shallots. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 cups of stock to the rice, plus the saffron and salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, which should take about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir every few minutes.
  6. Continue to add the stock, 2 cups at a time, continuing to stir periodically. With each addition, cook until the mixture has lost its liquid, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. You may not use all of the stock. Stir in the margoram and remove pot from heat.  Stir in the squash cubes, and with the bottom of a flat glass or cup, mash some of the squash into the risotto a few times.  Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Not Guilty Pleasure by Anne

beet.chips.and.dip Some treats that I crave are so guilty that I can’t even stand them sometimes.  To want them, I need to be in a dark and reckless mood (or on a road trip).  We’re talking perpetrators like Rice Krispy Treats, Sno Cones, and Chee-tos.   They require alternate spellings of words because they are not legally food.

Then there are those treats that bring me joy from the first luscious bite until long after I eat them.  Instead of using specially formulated chemicals designed to hit my taste buds right, the trick to these delicacies is that they take a little extra  care: an exquisite salad that someone else made for me, a perfectly crafted spicy tuna hand roll, and the lunch I made for myself and Rosalie the other day.

Yes, I fed my kid chips and dip, and not only did I feel good about it, I felt like a benevolent, morally unambiguous mother.  I sliced beets thinly and fried them until crisp.  Then, for dipping, I mixed herbed goat cheese with yogurt.  The sweet, dark, crispy beets with the rich and generously creamy dip tasted good enough to accidentally eat them too fast, and yet feel fabulous afterwards.   The toddler agreed.  She doesn't appear to feel guilty at all.

Beet Chips with Chevre Dip

Ingredients

  • 3 medium beets
  • Frying oil, such as peanut oil or canola oil—enough to fill a medium-small pot a few inches deep
  • Sea salt or other table salt
  • 5 ounces herbed goat cheese (I used Laura Chenel’s Chevre—chabis & herbs flavor.  If you do not have access to goat cheese that is already herbed,  use plain goat cheese and blend in small amounts of thyme, rosemary, savory, and salt)
  • ¾ cup yogurt
  • Extremely helpful tool: Deep frying thermometer.  I bought one at a drug store for less than three dollars and it made the work so much easier and saved me many mess-ups.

Directions

  1. Slice the beets very thinly with a sharp knife or (even more fun,) a mandoline.  Lay the beets out on clean towels or paper towels, then cover them with another layer of towel, pressing down to absorb moisture from both sides of the slices.  Note: if you use a towel, plan on possibly having a towel with large, pink polka-dotted stains on it.
  2. Heat oil to 350˚ over medium heat.  If the temperature gets too hot, remove pot from heat until the heat goes down, and turn the heat down slightly (I found that slightly on the lower side of medium got me to 350˚.  Your stovetop’s individual behavior will determine your exact heat setting).
  3. Put a few beet slices into the oil, giving each slice plenty of room to move around.  Hopefully the oil will sizzle softly around each slice and won’t do that unpleasant popping, because the moisture has been pressed from the surface of the beets.  About a minute into the cooking, turn the slices over to ensure even cooking.  Fry until the beets begin to change color from the deep magenta to a slightly lighter color, almost brown.   The whole frying process takes about 2 minutes per batch of chips.
  4. With tongs or a slotted spoon, remove chips from the oil and set on a plate lined with paper towels (or clean towels).  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
  5. When you get into a groove with the frying, take a moment to make the dip.   Blend the cheese and yogurt together thoroughly in a small bowl, and keep chilled until ready to use.
  6.  Serve chips on a plate with the bowl of dip. 

Makes a light snack for 3 or 4 people. 

Really? by Anne

watermelon.spring.rollsWhen I was a kid, everyone loved watermelon.  On summer’s best days, we rinsed our pink, sticky arms with a hose at home, in a creek at a picnic, or in the ocean when camping.  We held seed spitting contests.  We had long discussions about whether that whole “growing a watermelon in your stomach” thing was true if you swallowed the seeds.  On picnics a whole cooler loaded with ice was devoted to a gigantic specimen that seemed to come out at the hottest part of the day.  The enormous thing somehow always got eaten, no matter how huge.  For many years I assumed that there was no such thing as a person who didn’t like watermelon.  Something shifted, though.  Years passed, I moved, college happened.   The first time I met someone who didn’t care for watermelon, I was stunned and sympathetic.  This poor, odd person.  Surely he must have been the only person on the planet with this affliction.  In what seemed like a matter of weeks, I started to discover that so many people near and dear to me either don’t care for watermelon or even have an active aversion to it.  Wait—what happened here?  Was watermelon just a treat that all Texans like because of the hot weather?  Was it because when I was a kid, “everyone” meant other kids?  Or was it because everyone actually did love it in the 70’s but it fell by the wayside, the way quiche did in the 80’s, and pesto did in the 90’s? 

Well, if the latter is true (and it probably isn’t), watermelon did seem to make a comeback some years ago—in the form of the Unlikely Ingredient.  I was confused but intrigued the first time I heard of watermelon and feta together, or watermelon and a balsamic vinegar reduction.   My imagination was piqued by this introduction of watermelon into elegant, savory selections.  It made me want to experiment, too.  For this reason, watermelon has been on my mental backburner for awhile now.

Meanwhile, this summer I had been looking for fun things to make with cucumbers from my garden.  Thai spring rolls, wrapped in rice paper and filled with freshness, seemed a nice place to highlight a cucumber-clean flavor.  Thinking about summer rolls triggered my memory of a picture I saw of Chef Ferran Adria’s wacky concoction: spring rolls wrapped in spun sugar (as in, white cotton candy).  These rolls were fluffy, ethereal, angelic.   I remember uttering, “Really?” in a thrilled voice when I saw the picture.  It did seem improbable and kind of magic.  However, it dawned on me that many Thai dishes do have sweet flavors, so I could see how this would work in a pretty reasonable way.   I will not lie.  I’ve fantasized about renting a cotton candy machine to make these spring rolls at home.  There could be so many uses for a cotton candy machine! 

Anyway, I was in this thinking-outside-box frame of mind when the whole watermelon-cucumber connection came back to me.  I have always pondered the striking similarities between the two, and yet one is considered a fruit and the other, a vegetable (though they are both technically fruits).  Couldn’t they be interchangeable in some recipes where both sweetness and cucumber-like freshness are key?  You probably see where I was going before I did. 

So, I’ve been daydreaming about watermelon spring rolls for a couple of weeks now, and yesterday this dream became a reality.  Glory be, we have watermelon spring rolls—and they are fresh and perfectly delicious! Really!  Unless, of course, you don’t like watermelon.

 

Spicy Watermelon Summer Rolls

For Sauce:

  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • ½ tsp dried hot chili flakes, or to taste
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 2 T watermelon juice(pulp squeezed between two spoons into small bowl makes this juice)
  • 2 tsp tamari sauce (other varieties of soy sauce would also work)

For Rolls:

  • 2 oz rice vermicelli (cellophane noodles also works)
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 4 large green lettuce leaves, split in half, rib removed
  • About half a pound of watermelon, cut into long, slender strips, about 1/2” by 1/2” by 5”.  You need 16 strips total.
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and quartered lengthwise into 8 separate parts
  • ½ cup coarsely shredded carrot
  • ½ cup cilantro
  • ½ cup mint
  • ½ cup basil
  • 8  spring roll skins/wrappers

Directions:

  1. First, make the sauce:  Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, then add the garlic and peppers.  Let them cook at a lively sizzle for 2 or 3 minutes.  Do not cook garlic enough to turn golden or brown.  Add coconut milk, watermelon juice, and tamari sauce.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until sauce reduces and thickens, about 5 minutes.  Set sauce aside to cool.
  2. Cook rice vermicelli according to the package directions.  Drain thoroughly and toss with the rice vinegar and set aside.
  3. Set up your work station.  You will need a flat surface with a clean towel, a wide shallow pan filled with warm water for dipping the wrappers, and all of your filling ingredients nearby, including the sauce.
  4. Immerse a spring roll wrapper in the shallow pan of water for 30-60 seconds, just until it is pliable and soft.  Remove wrapper and place it on the toweled surface (I have tried paper towels, and the towels stick to the wrapper when rolling.  Not recommended). 
  5. Arrange a half-lettuce leaf on the bottom half of the wrapper, tearing away parts of the leaf to leave a one-inch border between the leaf and the edge of the wrapper.  Maintain this empty border when adding the other ingredients, too.  This will help to keep the filling contained.
  6. On the lettuce, near the midline of the wrapper, arrange about a tablespoon of carrot in a line from long end of the lettuce to the other, so that each bite will contain some carrot.  Add a few noodles in the same manner.  Dab about 2 teaspoons of the sauce along the noodles and carrots, and then place a watermelon strip atop this.  Add a couple more noodles and a scallion strip.  Add one more piece of watermelon, then sprinkle one tablespoon each of all the herbs on top of it all. 
  7. Gently separating the wrapper from the towel as you go, fold the bottom edge of the wrapper over the filling, tucking the end under the inside edge of the filling to hold it in place.  Snugly fold in both ends, and roll up the rest of the way.  Place this roll on a large serving plate.  Repeat this process until you have used all of your wrappers, and hopefully, all of your filling ingredients.  As you place the rolls on your serving plate, you might not want to stack them, because the wrappers sometimes stick together.   Serve rolls cut at a diagonal with a sharp knife.

Makes 8 rolls.

Building the Perfect Bite by Anne

pintxos.capreseAlong with many people, I had been doing it my whole life without thinking about it, but my friend Audrey put a name to it.  She likes to construct the perfect bite when eating her dinner—the right amount of each flavor on one fork.   The perfect bite brings joy to my heart, but can sometimes prove elusive.  So sometimes it helps to make it foolproof. Insalata Caprese (Caprese Salad) creates an ideal and easy opportunity to build the perfect bite.  Few things reach perfection as closely as the mighty triumvirate of electric basil, sun-sweet tomato and milky mozzarella, all salted and rich with a drizzle of green olive oil.  This salad calls to us like a siren when tomatoes and basil are in their bright prime, at the height of summer. 

So it is with mixed joy when I’m at a social event and I see this, one of my favorite salads.  The traditional Insalata Caprese—a lovely ring of overlapping red-white-and-green arranged on a plate— is so gorgeous.  So perfect.  So stressful.

Never mind the pressure placed on the first person (usually the guest) to remove that first bite, disturbing the elegant ring. And where to insert the spoon to get the whole ball rolling? Under the delicate tomato, so ripe it might fall apart?  Under the precariously slippery mozzarella?  Under the paper-thin basil?  Oh, that risky basil.  As the passed platter empties, invariably someone upsets the trio balance by losing a basil leaf--either on the table, under their chair, or the place where socks go.   Thereafter a lone pair of sliced tomato and mozzarella sits moping on the plate until someone surreptitiously finishes them off in the kitchen while rinsing dishes.   

Anyway, if I successfully manage to trap my treasures onto the plate without dripping tomato juice on the tablecloth and flinging basil on my neighbor, then comes the clumsy task of stacking the slippery devils like pancakes in order to slice them into decorous bites.  I do not bother to slice if I can get away with it.  With each movement I lose more tomato juice.  I have the danger of a ragged and bruised basil leaf, politely sliced with the side of my fork as I chat with my friends.  Or an even bigger flavor bummer, I didn’t successfully slice the basil at all, so one bite gets all the basil and the other gets none. 

At this point you may wonder if I have a life.  Do I really think that much about a salad?  Turns out I do. Hey, God is in the details; that's what I keep telling myself. 

Now.  If you love caprese salad and have similar OCD issues with the silent pandemonium it causes, you probably already do what I am about to propose.  And if you do, I say, Yay.  Isn’t it great?  Here's the solution to all of your Caprese problems:

Just serve the things on bread.

Many times I arranged that lovely wreath on a plate for dinner, only to immediately disassemble it and stack the trio on a slice of bread anyway.  With this method I’m able to control those flavor ratios.  I love you, bread.

Nowadays if I am having friends over or even just feeding my family, I don’t wait for them to assemble their serving of Insalata Caprese on the bread themselves.  I just make what I’m going to call Pintxos Caprese.  Pintxos (pronounced “PEEN-chos”) are the Basque equivalent of the Spanish tapas.  It’s the name for delicious bites of goodness assembled on slices of bread.  Nothing like mixing up the languages for a little fun.  Seriously, though, I can’t accurately call them bruschetta or crostini, both of which involve grilling or toasting the bread.  I’m blanking on an Italian equivalent name to “pintxos,” so if you know it, please do share.  After all, a perfect bite deserves a perfect name.

Pintxos Caprese

Ingredients (the fresher, the better):

  • One crusty-crisp baguette
  • 3 or 4 utterly ripe—yet firm—small tomatoes, preferably organic from the garden or a local farmer.  Plum tomatoes are often used, but I love flavorful heirloom tomatoes for this
  • A handful of unblemished, generous-sized basil leaves
  • ½ to ¾ lb. high-quality mozzarella.  Traditionally mozzarella made from water buffalo’s milk is used (called mozzarella buffola), but that’s rarely available here in the states.  The best cow’s milk mozzarella you can find is lovely, too (called fior di latte in Italy, which appears to translate as “flower of the milk…how lovely!).   The cheese you have should be mild, very soft, and stored in brine.
  • Best quality extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Kosher salt (and freshly ground pepper, if desired), to taste

Directions:

  1. Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella.  Rinse and thoroughly dry the basil.  Slice the baguette into coins the size of the tomato slices. 
  2. Assemble the pintxos by placing a tomato slice atop each slice of bread, followed by a basil leaf.  Arrange a small mozzarella slice over each basil leaf.  Here’s some over-thinking:  If your mozzarella slices are large in size and you choose not to slice them in half, you can arrange the basil leaf on top to ensure some color, but then the basil loses the “paper weight” of the mozzarella. You can place the mozzarella on the bottom, but the bread soaks up any excess flavorful juice from the tomato, which ensures maximum flavor and keeps the whole thing from becoming too slippy and drippy.
  3. Arrange the pintxos on a serving plate, drizzle generously with olive oil, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Serve immediately.

Makes 15 - 20 pintxos, with some leftover bread to snack on

Crêpes Are for Everyone by Anne

crepe.opener.picCrêpes satisfy the part in my heart that is obsessed with paper.   So soft, thin, and light, you could almost send a crêpe as a wedding invitation, layered with vellum and scrolled up with a silk ribbon.  Their forgiving, slightly stretchy quality makes them easy to fill and roll up, too.  They even open back up for do-overs if you aren’t pleased with the shape you folded, unlike wrapping paper, once its creased.  Flipping crêpes also feels amazing.  Each time I lift a delicate round from the pan, I feel grateful and amazed that it neatly responds to my spatula, being stronger than it looks.   The only thing more wonderful than making them—and of course, eating them—is that they are incredibly versatile.  A crêpe can be a snack wrapped in a napkin, a flambéed finale for a dinner party, or a morning cure for too much weekend.   So it might seem odd, now that I think about it, how long it took me to start making them.  Here’s the deal. 

About 10 years ago on a Saturday morning at 7 a.m., the phone rang.  Was it an emergency?  Yes.  Sort of.  It was a crêpe emergency.  Actually, a crêpe party emergency.  The party-thrower, our usually unflappable friend Adam, had a couple of flaps in his voice.  “I need some help.   Can you come over?”   We were on our way. 

The crêpe party was to start in a few hours, and it was going to be a doozy that would later go down in friend history reminisced about for years to come.  Adam had undertaken this crêpe extravaganza singlehandedly, and he took weeks to prepare for it.  He would come home after work and start flipping crêpes, then packing, labeling, and freezing them in airtight containers, ready to be filled with innumerable sweets and savories.  But here it was, the day of the party, and many people would be coming, ready for a feast. It was down to the wire. 

We walked in without knocking, to find Adam at his usual spot, flipping crêpes.  Like I said, Adam is generally cool as a cucumber, but he looked relieved to see us.  He didn’t need help with the crêpes themselves; it was the rest of the house that needed attention. So for several hours we made his home party-ready while he continued to flip and flip, fill and fill. There must have been a dozen different types of fillings. I can’t even remember them all, but I remember once the party started, we had the pleasant problem of not knowing where to begin, because there were so many flavors spread out before us.  

It was a fabulous party, an extravagance fit for the turn of the century, which it was.  I can’t believe this was almost 10 years ago.  The memory of this morning burned so strongly in my mind that I avoided even trying to make crêpes.   What, did I think it would be difficult? Drudgery? I’m not even sure.  Apparently, though, it left a powerful subliminal impression that Making Crêpes Would Make You Lose Your Cool. If Adam was a little ruffled, where would that leave me, a more ruffle-y person?  Did I want to make myself that stressed out on purpose? 

Now I realize.  Now that I’ve bitten the bullet and tried my hand at crêpes, I see that the problem with crêpes is neither drudgery nor difficulty.  The problem is that crêpes could possibly drive you to real obsession.  They are so pleasant and satisfying to make.  Next thing you know, you're trying to come up with more reasons and ways to make them, possibly even resulting in making hundreds and hundreds of them for hordes of friends, like Adam did.  In the course of a week I brought crêpes to a barbeque, a brunch, and a baby shower.  Today I made some crêpe batter, “just because.” Just because what?  Why in the world did I do that?  Well, that’s the cool part.  As soon as they are made, they will be welcome in just about any situation, on any doorstep, and in any hand.  Might as well make ‘em.

 

Basic Crêpes

If this is your first or second time making crêpes, I recommend making a double batch so you’ll have enough to practice.  You can easily freeze the extras you make, or you can distribute them to friends and neighbors. They won’t mind. A first-time double recipe relieves the pressure to make perfect ones every time, and you can learn from any problems that arise.  I’ve made a troubleshooting guide below this recipe for your reference. 

Ingredients 

  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ t salt
  • 1 T plus 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup melted butter

 Directions: Making the Batter

  1. In a medium-large bowl, beat eggs with salt and sugar with a whisk*. 
  2. Add milk and flour alternately, starting with some of the milk (the flour seems to make less lumps this way), and blending well after each addition.  You will need to whisk somewhat briskly to get rid of flour-lumps.  When the batter is well-blended, beat in the melted butter.   
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the batter chill and rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour, preferably several hours.  Even better would be overnight, but don’t store it for more than 24 hours. 
  4. Right before cooking crêpes, remove the bowl from the refrigerator and stir to reincorporate the ingredients into a smooth batter.  Batter should be thin--considerably thinner than pancake batter, for example.

*When making the batter you can also use an electric mixer, but use it judiciously.  If you beat at too high a speed for too long, your batter will have too many bubbles and might come out “lacy” when it cooks—which will cause a problem if you fill the crêpe later.  If, when beating, you wind up making quite a few bubbles in order to get rid of flour lumps, just make sure you give the batter more time to rest in the fridge.

Directions: Cooking Crêpes

These directions are for crêpe pans over a stove. If you have a crêpe maker, follow the instruction manual for your model.   

A note before you begin: Because the pouring/swirling process is so quick, I like to use a ¼ measuring cup with a handle for ease of pouring in the proper amount.  I don’t quite fill it, and I only pour/use the amount needed to evenly coat the bottom, but then there’s a tiny bit left in the cup if I need to finish off a small gap where the pan didn’t get covered in time while swirling.

  1. Prepare your station.  Next to the stovetop, place a plate or platter lined with a piece of wax paper —for the finished crêpes.   Position the batter bowl on the other side of the pan, and put a small plate next to the bowl for the pouring cup to rest on when not in use (this helps cut down on drips and cup-sized circles all over your counter and stove).  Crêpe making is a quick process, so it’s nice to have everything set up how you want it before you start.
  2.  Pre-heat pan over medium-high.  No butter is necessary if the pan is non-stick.  If you use butter, you won’t need to use very much.   Too much will make the crêpe greasy, and it also might interfere with the proper cooking of the crêpe (see Troubleshooting Guide below).
  3. Once pan is hot, lift up the back edge at an angle.  Pour about 3 T of batter all at once onto the back/highest end of the pan, letting the batter flow down and around one side.*  Immediately tilt pan in different directions to thinly coat the entire bottom of the pan in a smooth circle.  The batter should be so thin that the crêpe already starts cooking all the way through as you finish swirling.  Set pan back down on burner.  
  4. When the top seems nearly completely cooked—in only one or two minutes—and the bottom is golden brown (you can peek by lifting up an edge with the spatula), slide the spatula under the crêpe and move it around underneath the crêpe to make sure that it is not sticking.  Flip and cook for one or two seconds longer. 
  5. Slide crêpe out onto the plate.

*Most recipes say to pour batter in the middle of the pan in an outward spiral pattern, then start swirling.  I also found that the method described above works well for me.  It seems to give me a better idea of how little batter I can get away with.

making.crepe

Note: This is not a traditional crêpe pan.  It's possible, though not always as easy, to use a regular skillet, such as this one.

Storing Crêpes

Right after making your stack of crêpes, cover the plate with a larger bowl or a large pan lid to retain moisture until you are ready to wrap with or serve them.  They can also be stored in a large ziplock bag in the refrigerator for about 4 days.  They will last even longer in the freezer; just make sure you separate each crêpe with wax paper.

In the next post, I will share some ideas and techniques for filling and folding crêpes.

Crêpe Troubleshooting Guide 

Crêpe batter can be very forgiving if you know some basic tricks and principles about the batter.   I’ve seen some troubleshooting guides out on the Internet and in books, and I’ve also made crêpes “wrong” on purpose (I swear!) and can confirm that the following troubleshooting tips all seem to be true; the fixes worked for me.

problem.crepe

Problem

Possible Cause

Solution

Crêpe is lacy Too many bubbles in the batter Let batter rest longer
  Batter is too thin Add 1 or 2 T of flour
Edges of crêpe crack easily because they are dry and thin Batter is too thin Add 1 or 2 T of flour
  Heat is too high Bring heat down slightly and wait a moment before starting next crêpe
Crêpe does not swirl properly Not enough batter added to pan Finish this crêpe and add more batter next time
  Batter is too thick Add 1 or 2 T milk, testing to see if problem is solved
Batter sticks to pan Heat is too low Wash and dry pan thoroughly; re-season with a bit of butter and bring heat up a bit, making sure pan is fully heated before adding batter
Batter does not stick to pan when swirling, or begins to bubble or curdle Too much butter in the pan Finish this crêpe and wipe out pan with paper towel before starting next crêpe