Saturday, 12 February 2011

And the Jazz Goes On

Before my séjour in Paris, jazz was one of my least familiar genres of music. And yet, throughout my time there, it quickly became a staple of my life (alongside the language and food, of course). Guided by my roommate's strong interest in the genre, as well as the Parisians' apparent love for such music in, I stepped foot in many a jazz club and came out fully enjoying the experience. Unlike the case of our favourite location for pain au chocolat, two jazz clubs in particular became the staple centres: l'Hippocampus and Duc des Lombards. Ah, yes, and here's the gallery from the first one we went to: voilà.

I make mention of this here for two reasons in particular: first, whenever I now hear jazz, I think "Paris." And in my Ohio apartment, at least three and a half times (?) larger than my Parisian chambre de bonne, a small sense of Paris returned today when I found out my television picks up a jazz audio station. Second, coincidentally, the sister of Denison's French TA arrived from France this afternoon, and after settling in a bit, both of them came over for dinner as we ate crêpes to the sound of the melodious jazz.

I'm still not quite sure as to how we had separated as I tried to lead them back to campus, but I somehow got back way before they did, which gave me plenty of time to prep my crêpe batter. [An aside: for my sake, please pronounce it as close to "krehp" as you can, and NOT "crAYp." There is a reason for that accent mark being there!] Before I actually share my recipe, do take note that I recognise the batter itself is much more complicated than it needs to be. Typically, crêpe batter is described as thinner pancake batter, which results in a thin and much lighter version of a pancake, with the basic ingredients including egg, butter, milk, sugar, flour, and a pinch of salt. My crêpe batter, however, includes a few spices, vanilla extract, sugar (dark brown preferred), and works with either olive oil or butter (the preference of course given to the latter). The result is a slightly more savoury, denser (i.e., not as paper thin as what a typical batter produces), and richer crêpe that can be used for both main dish entrée and dessert preparations.

To prepare for about 12 crêpes (I used a 10" non-stick open skillet), you'll need 1.5 c flour,  2 c milk, 2 eggs, a few drops of vanilla extract, 1/4 c melted butter,* 1/4 c packed dark brown sugar, and 1/3 tbsp each ground black pepper, sea salt, paprika, cinnamon. As noted above, and from experience, you can substitute the butter for olive oil, and the dark brown sugar can be replaced with light brown sugar or regular granulated sugar.

*N.B. Apparently you can forego the butter/oil altogether... I just opened my microwave door and saw I had neglected to include the butter in the batter! Even with this additional liquid, I still remember my crêpe batter to yield thicker crêpes than most others. In any case, I'll be sure to add this in the next time around. :-P (Ah, savoury cooking...)

With your ingredients now prepped, into a medium-size tupperware container put all of your dry ingredients. Cover the container with its appropriate lid and shake the contents, thoroughly mixing everything together. (You can, of course, use a bowl and stir everything together, but you'll see soon enough why I suggest the tupperware.) Open up the lid and put in all of your liquid ingredients. IF your container has enough room (i.e., the ingredients take up less than 3/4 of the container's space), put the lid back on and shake everything together to incorporate the ingredients. However, for a much smoother consistency, use a hand mixer to thoroughly do the trick, making sure there are no clumps; the consistency is much like that of a thin milkshake. 

Onto a med-lo skillet, lightly butter the pan (yes, I know I already said the skillet I'm using is non-stick), pour a bit of the batter and quickly use some wrist action to coat the entirety of the pan. You don't want too much batter it ends up a thick crêpe, but you also don't want too thin of a crêpe; be sure to practice this once or twice before you serve this to others, so you can get a sense as to how much batter you'll need for your pan. When the edges begin to crisp up and the crêpe itself starts to bubble (as seen in the above photo), use a wide kitchen flipper to help flip the crêpe. Right after the other side of the crêpe hits that skillet, put on your filling. Tonight, I used shredded mozzarella and thinly sliced deli ham for the savoury crêpes, and nutella (served with my orange blueberry reduction and powdered sugar) for the dessert crêpes. In less than a minute at this point, the crêpe is done cooking and ready to serve. Fold the crêpe in half for a simple and practical presentation; fold it a second time for a Parisian style presentation, or roll it like a log (as seen in the halved nutella crêpe in the leading blog post photo way above) for a more southern French presentation.

Ah, and as for my rationale for the tupperware? Uncertain as to whether or not we'd actually finish up all the crêpe batter, I at least have the batter in a container that can then be stored in the fridge. In this case, I know what I'm having for a mini breakfast in the morning! (And you also end up saving yourself from having to wash a mixing bowl.)

Delicate and filling, having a crêpe batter recipe on hand is a quick way of serving a complete meal to dinner guests at a moment's notice. And with the expectation you have the above ingredients in your pantry, this is an easy-to-prepare dish, the batter of which can be made in advance, the flavours of which are plentiful, and the clean-up minimal. For additional photos, click here.

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