Sweet! The kids are coming home for Mother's Day weekend. I'll do the grocery shopping, and they'll cook (well, one meal anyway). They plan on making Sunday brunch — our family's favorite. However, these young adults stay out late on Saturday nights, so they'll need to work ahead. The solution: crepes. The simple batter for these delicate pancakes actually improves with resting. A filling of shredded rotisserie chicken comes together in minutes.
Julia Child taught us everything we know about crepes: They cook in less than a minute, they can be made days ahead, and they taste great sweet or savory. She also advocated making the crepe batter in advance so the flour absorbs the liquid, creating tender, lacy thin pancakes every time. In her 1989 book, "The Way to Cook," she advises using instant-blending flour to shorten the waiting time. That works well, but these days, I swap a little of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat for a nutty taste and more healthful profile.
I've also switched from whole milk to skim in the batter. When I cooked with skim and with whole, the results showed little difference. So I'm happy to use skim and skip the added fat.
I don't skip the melted butter added to the batter after the resting. It helps with flavor and tenderness and to release the pancake from the pan.
Speaking of pans, we fussed mightily to properly season our steel crepe pan (carried back from France on an anniversary trip). Now, we simply enlist a small nonstick skillet. Piece of cake to make a thin crepe that slides right out of the pan. More great news from the nonstick world: Zero fat is needed to cook the crepes. Simply use a hot skillet for fewer calories, less stove splatter and easier cleanup.
Two tricky things to figure out — how much heat to use and how much batter per crepe. I use medium to medium-high heat. I heat the pan pretty thoroughly before adding batter: A drop of water should evaporate upon contact. Keep adjusting the heat so the pan is hot enough to start cooking the batter as soon as it hits the pan but does not burn the pancake. You'll want to practice a bit with just how much batter you need. Pour the batter in, then swirl it around to cover the bottom into a thin crepe. For the thinnest crepes, pour off any excess back into the batter bowl.
Stack cooked crepes on top of each other to keep them warm. Cooked crepes also can be cooled on a wire rack for later use. Stack the cooled crepes into a covered container and refrigerate for several days.
If you're not convinced of the simplicity of making crepes, you can use store-bought crepes instead for the chipotle chicken and goat cheese filling. Mom won't mind as long as you stick around to do the dishes.
Whole wheat crepes
Prep: 10 minutes
Chill: 1 hour or overnight
Cook: 15 minutesMakes: 14 to 16 crepes
1 ½ cups skim milk
3 large eggs
1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
1. Measure milk into a blender; add eggs. Process to mix. Add flours and salt. Blend until smooth. Put the batter (I leave it in the blender jar) into the refrigerator, at least 1 hour or preferably overnight. (Batter will keep in the refrigerator for several days. If necessary, thin it with a little milk to bring it back to the consistency of cream soup.)
2. After batter has chilled, melt the butter in a small dish in the microwave; stir it into the crepe batter.
3. Heat a 7- or 9-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water evaporates on contact. Pour or ladle in about 1/4 cup batter. Immediately swirl the pan to distribute batter into a thin, even layer. Tip excess batter back into container. Cook just until golden on the bottom, 20 to 30 seconds. Carefully flip the crepe; cook the second side just long enough to color it, about 15 seconds.
4. Slide the crepe onto a plate. Repeat to cook all the crepes. When cool, the crepes can be wrapped and kept in the refrigerator for several days.
Per crepe (for 16 crepes): 74 calories, 2 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 37 mg cholesterol, 11 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 44 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.
Savory crepes with chipotle chicken and goat cheese
Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
1 can (15 ounces) petite diced tomatoes, undrained
½ to 3/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder or 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 cups shredded cooked chicken, such as rotisserie chicken
1 bunch green onions, trimmed, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
8 cooked 9-inch crepes, see recipe
4 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup creme fraiche or sour cream thinned with a little milk
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish.
2. Mix tomatoes and chipotle powder in a microwave safe bowl. Stir in chicken. Cover; microwave until hot, 1-2 minutes. Stir in onions, cilantro and salt to taste.
3. To assemble, spoon about 1/3 cup of chicken mixture onto one edge of a crepe. Top with some goat cheese crumbles. Roll up; place in the baking dish. Repeat to fill all the crepes. Drizzle the crepes with the thinned cream. Bake until heated through, about 15 minutes.
4. Sprinkle with more cilantro and a little chipotle powder.
Per serving: 440 calories, 18 g fat, 11 g saturated fat, 168 mg cholesterol, 30 g carbohydrates, 36 g protein, 539 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.
Sweet crepes with lemony grapefruit curd
Prep: 15 minutes
Note: Use fresh berries mashed with a little sugar when they are in season. Jarred lemon curd can be substituted for the homemade lemony grapefruit curd. I also like to smear the crepes with apple butter or pumpkin butter and garnish with sauteed apples in place of the berries.
3 tablespoons mascarpone or creme fraiche
A little half-and-half or milk
10 warm cooked 7-inch crepes, see recipe
About 3/4 cup lemony grapefruit curd, at room temperature
½ cup mixed frozen unsweetened berries (such as raspberries, blueberries, sliced small strawberries), thawed
Whisk the mascarpone and a little half-and-half in a small bowl until light and almost pourable. Place 1 crepe on a serving plate. Smear with about 1 tablespoon curd. Top with another crepe and smear it with curd. Repeat to stack all the crepes. Spoon thinned mascarpone over the crepe stack. Spoon berries over all. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Per serving: 456 calories, 24 g fat, 13 g saturated fat, 234 mg cholesterol, 211 g carbohydrates, 13 g protein, 164 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.
Lemony grapefruit curd
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Chill: several hours
Makes: a generous 1 1/2 cups
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 medium grapefruit, washed
1 small lemon, washed
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1. Beat the eggs and egg yolks in a small bowl. Use a rasp grater to remove the colored part of the grapefruit and lemon rinds (do not grate the bitter white pith) into a small saucepan. Squeeze the juices into a measuring cup. Remove the seeds; pour about 2/3 cup of the juice into the saucepan. (Reserve any remaining juice for another use.)
2. Whisk cornstarch into juices in the saucepan until dissolved. Whisk in sugar and salt. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until clear and thickened, 2-3 minutes.
3. Spoon a little of this thickened juice mixture into the beaten eggs to gently warm them. Then stir the egg mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, just until the mixture starts to thicken enough to lightly coat the back of the spoon. Do not let it boil or it will curdle. Remove from the heat. Whisk in the butter, a tablespoon at a time, until incorporated. Scrape into a glass jar and refrigerate several hours or up to 2 weeks.
Per tablespoon: 55 calories, 3 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 37 mg cholesterol, 6 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 13 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.