Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Great Crepe-tastic Disaster!

Well, I've been yakking on about crepes for long enough & I suppose it's time to share the actual fruits of my labors. Honestly, it's been a mixed bag. I had forgotten just how frustrating the process of making crepes can sometimes be, especially since it has been years since I actually made any.

The first attempt was a cinch. I simply thinned out the dregs of a batch of local buckwheat pancake batter (using plain old milk & water) until it was about the consistency of heavy cream, then cooked them up on my recently acquired cast-iron griddle pan. Easy as pie (well, actually, considerably easier). Then I made up two different savory fillings, rolled them up in the crepes, & dug in. The only real shortcoming of this particular attempt was that I sort of forgot to make any kind of sauce to compliment either of the fillings, which while not exactly required for a crepe dish, certainly would have made them more memorable. & moist.

Anyway, not too shabby. The crepes lent their typical light sweetness to contrast with the salty, meaty & cheesy flavors of the fillings. My first memory of a savory crepe was one I had at a restaurant attached to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, as a kid. It was filled with a simple (canned) tuna salad & drizzled with hollandaise sauce. Totally awesome, & something I've replicated many times in various restaurants, with a fair amount of success. Due to locality issues, of course, tuna was out, so I grabbed a few things I had lying around instead; some grass-fed beef (MN), farmstead feta (WI), cherry tomatoes (MN), & spinach grown on the farm I've been volunteering at (MN), among others.

Here was the result:

Local buckwheat crepes filled with 100% grass-fed beaf, cherry tomatoes,
fresh basil, & a touch of balsamic vinegar (foreground) & spinach, feta & bacon (background).

A number of days after this relative triumph, & flush with cocky confidence, I decided to get serious. As soon as the Door County Cherries made their first appearance in the store, I snagged a little cardboard crate of them & got to work.

The scene of the crime...

Big fancy cook that I am, I somehow have gone throughout life without a cherry-pitter. I regret this, now. I also regret that I ate a cherry for every two I pitted for the sauce. Not that they weren't insanely good, but it made the process take forever. After pitting, I reduced the fruit & their juice with nothing but a couple of pinches of salt. No added sugar was needed, at all (although it could be included for a sweeter sauce).

So far, so good.

The same night, I made up a new batch of batter, this time being all scientific & following the directions precisely (this is why I don't gravitate towards baking). The first batch of crepes had come out pretty good, by gut instinct, but I wanted these to be perfect. They had to support the best cherries in the known universe, after all. I let the batter sit overnight & got up early the next morning to make sure I had time to make breakfast. This is where things started to go badly awry.

I'm not sure what was to blame. Perhaps the condition of my griddle, which although relatively unfamiliar to me, I had thought I'd been taking pains to treat properly. Or maybe my meticulously assembled batter was off just a pinch of something. But the damn crepes just burned to the pan, leaving the top surface raw. I scraped the first attempt into the trash, scrubbed the pan, & started again. No luck. Now dangerously close to being late for work, & not wanting to ruin my day before it even began (I do not take well to kitchen disappointments), I shelved the project & bitterly scarfed down some toast.

I tried again that night, with similarly annoying results. Finally admitting that this particular batter & this particular cooking surface simply weren't going to cooperate this time around, I eventually just used a non-stick pan. It was still a struggle (leading me to put the ultimate blame on my batter), but I managed to make two more crepes:

Local buckwheat crepes with mascarpone cheese & Door County cherry sauce.

Unfortunately, a friend called just as I was plating this for the picture. He responded to my explanation as to why I couldn't talk just then by saying, "What, crepes again? Man, you're such a foodie!" I tried to make it clear that, while I understood he was trying to pay me a compliment, the term "foodie" is considered to be something of an insult in the professional cooking world. He insisted on not understanding me, & fueled perhaps by my sneaking suspicion that I had no idea why I was posing as anything (considering my recent string of failures), I lost my cool. As a direct result, the plating was sloppy as hell. & I had to call him back later & apologize.

But it tasted fantastic.

Not that I have any intention of trying this again, anytime soon.

-nano out.

1 comment:

Liz said...

I hate the word foodie. I probably would have been mad, too, just because I hate the word.
Atleast the cherry crepes tasted good!