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Crepes from the Piedmont!

By SYLVIE ROWAND

Sylvie Rowand of Laughing Duck Gardens and Cookery brings her delightful French accent to this recipe which features Virginia heirloom apples. She tells us February 2 is National Crepe Day in France, but, as you will see, the first week of February demands celebration in every part of the world!

Laughing Duck crepesOn February 2, in Punxsutawney, PA, Phil the Groundhog is most unwillingly thrust into forecasting the next 6 weeks’ weather (most unwillingly indeed as he is – apparently – wrong 61% of the time). But you know, no matter what poor Phil does or does not do, we are now halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox and receiving 10 hours of sunlight a day again! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is cause for celebration, even if only a modest one.

So whether you celebrate Ground Hog Day, Candlemas, St Brigid’s Day, Imbolc, or just want to have a fun family evening, I propose we make crepes. Listen: if you can make pancakes, chances are you can make crepes! The basic ingredients are the same after all (flour, eggs & milk), the proportions different. As when making pancakes, a cast-iron skillet is the most practical choice. There is absolutely no need for a special crepe skillet: I do not have one.  Fun and easy to make, sweet or savory, sophisticated or homey, crepes are our friends – and they are coffee-friendly, hard-cider friendly and, without a doubt, wine friendly!

So let’s make some crepes. Get the kids or gather some friends around, even the smallest stove in a tight corner can take two cooks! You can take turn making and eating them. They are, after all, best just off the pan, although you may stack them and keep them warm in a very low oven (175F) for up to an hour until ready to eat. You may also make them in advance, stuff them, spread a sauce on top and later bake them in a hot oven (350F) not unlike enchiladas.  You could have a savory batch going, and a sweet batch – make an all-purpose batter, just use the recipe below and omit the vanilla.

Roll them like a fajita, fold them (triangular or square), stack and layer them, cut them up, there is no wrong way to eat crepes.  If you are going to eat them by hand, stick to simple sweet crepes, spreading only a little jam before rolling or folding: since a crepe is lacy with lots of tiny holes, you do not want excess filling to ooze through onto your new shoes or the carpet. If, on the other hand, you are going to eat them on a plate with fork and knife, by all means, give them some fat dollops of filling, roll them up, mound dessert crepes with fruit (fresh, stewed or sautéed) and even flamé them.

Sylvie Rowand of Laughing Duck Farms

Rapp County's Sylvie Rowand is a constant innovator (with a French twist) and dedicated locavore.

On the sweet side, you can’t go wrong with a good quality jam and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice; or lemon curd; or ricotta cheese and berry sauce; or as in the recipe below:  almond cream and sautéed apples (Virginia heirloom apples, anyone?) with maple syrup (try Highland County Maple Syrup). And what to drink with that? Try one of our Virginia dessert wines or sparkling wines. I am myself partial to Barboursville Brut, with its uncomplicated joyful bubbles and its below-$20 price range. Works great for brunch!

Vanilla Crepe with Almond Cream and Maple Caramelized Apples

For 4 brunch plates (2 crepes each) or 8 dessert plates:

8 Vanilla Crepes (see below)

1.5 cups Almond Créme (see below)

4 apples, cored and cut into ¼ inch slices

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons lemon juice, or orange juice or cider

½ cup maple syrup, plus more to serve at the table

Arrange the crepes, good side down. Distribute the almond cream between the crepes, spreading it on one half of each crepe. Fold the crepes in two, then fold them in wedges. Arrange one or two on each plate.  This can be prepared and assembled ahead up to overnight (keep refrigerated and bring to room temperature 1 hour before serving) – except wait until just before serving to sautéed the apples.

Core (peel if you want) and slice apples into ¼ inch slices.

Melt butter in a large skillet over high heat. When bubbling, add the apple slices and sauté, flipping once or twice, until nicely browned on each side – about 5 minutes. Adjust heat as necessary. Turn heat down, add juice and maple syrup, reduce for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Distribute the apples between the plates, and drizzle with the pan sauce. Serve immediately with additional syrup on the side.

Vanilla Crepes:

(yields about 12 – 8 inch crepes)

1 cup + 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour

2 cups Milk

2 eggs

1 tablespoon oil

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (omit for all purpose batter)

oil for the skillet: about 1 T

Mix everything in the blender until smooth. Let rest in the fridge at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Just before cooking, whisk briefly.

Heat up an 8 inch cast iron skillet until hot. Fold a paper towel into a tight bunch. Add oil to skillet and immediately wipe it all over the skillet, spreading it in an even film using the bunched paper towel. Reserve the paper towel and use it to spread oil over the skillet in between cooking each crepe. There should be enough oil from that initial wiping to cook all the crepes. If not, add a little more, wipe, etc.

Lower the heat to medium high. Hold the skillet off the burner, tilting slightly, and pour ¼ cup of batter, swirling the pan to spread the batter as evenly and as thinly as possible to just cover the bottom of the pan. Work fast but methodically. Set the pan back on the burner. It should take about 20 to 30 seconds for the crepe to be sturdy enough that you can lift it and flip it with a long, thin, flexible metal spatula. The second side only needs 10 or 15 seconds. It’s not unusual for the first crepe to be less than ideal – especially if your pan was not hot enough. [ed note: I always toss my first pancake!]

Repeat the operation, wiping the pan with oil between each crepe. Stack the cooked crepes on a plate. If you want to keep them warm, keep them in a low (175F) oven.

Almond Cream:

(yields about 1/.5 cups)

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons flour

2 egg yolks

1 whole egg

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon butter

4 tablespoons very finely ground almonds

Heat up milk until very hot but not boiling.

In a sturdy bowl, whisk the flour and sugar; whisk egg yolks and egg, one at a time, then the almond extract. Dribble hot milk into the egg mixture in a thin stream, whisking well and continuously. Add mixture back to pan over low heat, and continue whisking until the cream thickens well – about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat, add butter and almond. Let cool, whisking once in a while to prevent the formation of a skin. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Enjoy! Bon Appetit!

Sylvie Rowand of Laughing Duck Gardens & Cookery holds cooking and canning classes in Washington, VA. She is also a private chef and is available for special occasion catering. You can e-mail her at Sylvie@LaughingDuckGardens.com.

Website:  www.LaughingDuckGardens.com
Food & Kitchen Garden Blog: http://www.LaughingDuckGardens.com/ldblog.php/
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