Crêpe Expectations

Pavlov Center for Applied Psychiatry

GUEST: Psychiatrist

PSYCHIATRIST: Tell me where you are.
AB: In a restaurant.
  P: And what's happening?
AB: He's laughing.
  P: The Mad French Chef?
AB: Yeah, and all his little friends too.
  P: What are they saying?
AB: [in French accent] Zees are not crêpes. Crêpes are thin and light and tender. Zees are lumpy like your fuzzy American head.
  P: What went wrong?
AB: [sobs] I don't know ... I ... wrong batter, wrong pan, wrong flip, WRONG COOK! [grabs tissue, cries, blows nose]
  P: I'm going to count to three and you're going to wake up rested and refreshed.
1 ... 2 ... 3.
AB: [stops crying] Whew. So did we make any progress today?
  P: Is it possible this Mad French Chef you keep seeing is ... some sort of manifestation of a feeling of inadequacy?
AB: Inadequacy? Gee, what would I have to feel inadequate about?
  P: Tell me only the good things that come into your mind when you think about crêpes.
AB: Crêpes ... well, ... crêpes. Gee, what does all this have to do with crêpes?
  P: You tell me.
AB: Ha, ha. Well, ... you don't believe in him, do you? You don't believe he exists even though I've seen him over and over. I've told you about all of this ...
  P: Perhaps he is an inward symbol of your fear of crêpes. Conquer crêpes and you conquer him.
AB: Perhaps, perhaps you should get out your pad and write me a prescription!
  P: Perhaps you need to get in touch with your French side.
AB: [aghast]
  P: Trust French. Walk French. Talk French. Cook French. Drive a French car. Get a beret. And then maybe, eventually, you'll be able to say it.
AB: Say what?
  P: Crêpes ... are ...
AB: Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. That I do not say.
  P: Alton, you have to do the work.
AB: Fine. [pauses] Crêpes are good eats.
  P: Good. That's all the time we have today.

Franco-Mart: Atlanta, GA

GUEST: Franco-Mart Mademoiselle

AB: Okay. I'll take the beret for sure. I gotta have that beret. And that pillow, that "I'd rather be in Paris" pillow. Oh, yeah. That's nice. The Jerry Lewis box set and, uh, oh is that a French for Stupid American Cooks? Definitely need one of those. Oh yeah. That'll be great. I'll take this bumper sticker and one of these, one of these flags and hey, is that one of this grill medallions under there? Yeah. Ooo. I want one of those for my ... and a key chain. Hey, how much is the crêpe pan in the window?

Parking For French ONLY

French for Stupid
American Cooks


FRANCO-MART MADEMOISELLE: [with a Southern accent] 75 Francs.

    [sighs] Looks like it's good and heavy and that means even heat distribution. The shoulders are steep so that the crêpe stays perfectly round and yet the sides are short and flared so you can turn it easily. But gosh, do I really need a pan just for crêpes?

FM: Perhaps mon-sewer would prefer an electric pan. Very e-fiss-e-ant. 125 Francs.
AB: 125 Francs? What else does it do?
FM: Just crêpes.
AB: Just crêpes?
FM: Crêpes.
AB: Don't that sound kind of silly?
FM: Say-la-vee.    

The Kitchen Floor: Later that same day

GUEST: Shirley Corriher, Food Science Guru

SHIRLEY CORRIHER: [answering phone] Suicidal Chef's Hot Line. This is Shirley.
AB: [on phone] Shirley. Shirley. It's Alton Brown calling.
SC: Alton, what did they do? Cancel the program?
AB: No. It's worse than that. It's my crêpes. They're fat and lumpy.
SC: Fat crêpes. Sounds like leavening to me, Alton. Did you add any baking powder to them?
AB: No. No. No, I would never do that.
SC: Did you let the batter rest for a full hour?
AB: Should I have?
SC: Yeah. Absolutely. You need time for the bubbles to escape and you need to hydrate your starch so they'll be nice and tender. Lumpy. How'd you mix these together?
AB: Well, a whisk, of course.
SC: Go with a blender, Alton. It's much, much smoother and much, much faster. Try that and give me a call later, okay?
AB: Okay. I will. Thanks. Thanks, Shirley.


The Kitchen

    Okay. I'm ready to take another stab at this little problem. I'm going to do it Shirley's way this time. We're going to make a basic crêpe batter in the blender. Two large eggs, three quarter cups of milk, half a cup of water, a cup of all-purpose flour and about 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Now if you wanted some extra nuttiness, brown that butter first. Lid on. Blend for 7 to 10 seconds on high. Any longer and the water and flour would get together and form gluten which would toughen the crêpes and they'd hold bubbles and they'd get fat and nasty and ehhh. I don't want to get into it.

2 Large Eggs
3/4 Cup of Milk
1/2 Cup H2O
1 Cup AP Flour
3 Tbls Melted Butter

    Now, you want to make a more savory crêpe? Well we're going to use the exact same ingredients: eggs, milk, water, flour and butter. Plus we're going to add about a quarter teaspoon of salt—that's like two big pinches—and some fresh herbs, a quarter cup. Anything but rosemary will do here. It sticks in your teeth. Now the short blend time will ensure that the herbs do not get obliterated. Fine. Looks good.

2 Large Eggs
3/4 Cup of Milk
1/2 Cup H2O
1 Cup AP Flour
3 Tbls Melted Butter
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 Cup Fresh Herbs

    Oh, you want a dessert crêpe? No problem. Same ingredients: we've got the eggs and the water and the milk and the flour, same amount of butter and then I'm going to go with a teaspoon of vanilla extract and about two and a half tablespoons of sugar. Same blend time.

2 Large Eggs
3/4 Cup of Milk
1/2 Cup H2O
1 Cup AP Flour
3 Tbls Melted Butter
1 tsp Vanilla
2 1/2 Tbls Sugar

    Now move the batters straight to the refrigerator and let them rest for at least an hour. You could put them on hold for as long as 24 hours without any real loss of quality. Of course the longer the batters sit, the more moisture's going to be sucked up by the flour. That means that the batters are going to get thicker over time. So when you're ready to pan up, you may need to add a couple of tablespoons of water just to get the consistency right. But don't do that until you're ready to cook.

No blender? Build a batter in your food processor using 5 - 10 quick pulses.

The Kitchen Floor: Later that same day

SC: Have you tried other pans?
AB: But Shirley, I've tried every pan in the joint.
SC: Did you try a crêpe pan?
AB: I don't have a crêpe pan. Do I need one?
SC: Are you making crêpes?
AB: I'm trying to.
SC: Bingo. Alton, honey, I gotta to go. I've got another chef on the other line and he's already taken off his clothes.
AB: All right. Thanks. [sighs]

Although not exactly traditional, crepes can be cooked on an electric griddle.

Bed Bath & Beyond

GUEST: W, Equipment Mademoiselle

    One day in 1938 a Dupont scientist named Doctor Roy Plunkett was playing around with a gas called tetrafluoroethylene. He was trying to make a coolant like Freon but he made a mistake and he polymerized the gas into this kind of nasty, waxy solid which was chemically inert and extremely slippery. He didn't know what to do with it but he went ahead and named it polytetrafluoroethylene or Teflon for short. Now the military used it for a little while. They coated parts inside Atom Bombs, then they put it on nose cones of missiles. But it took a Frenchman, a fisherman in fact, to start applying it to things culinary. He started by putting it on fishing tackle so that it wouldn't tangle up and then his wife asked him to put it inside one of her pots. The rest is non-stick history. The pans made the couple a mint and to this day Teflon is considered the slipperiest substances on earth.
    Teflon didn't catch on in the States right away. But once it did, business was slick.

 W: What can I do for you, Mr. Pepe La Pew?
AB: [sighs] Bon jour, du-blay. I would like a 10 inch, non-stick pan for cooking crêpes.
 W: Well there are a lot of Teflon pans on the market but not all are good for cooking things like eggs or crêpes. Take a look.
AB: All right. I will.
 W: Those knobs reduce the surface contact with the food. Less contact, less sticking.
AB: Well, that's pretty darned ingenious. But you know what? I think for crêpes I need a non-stick surface that's as slick as Maurice Chevalier.
 W: Then try this, General De Gaulle.
AB: Mmm. Ohh, le wow.  That's what I call slick.

    Mmm. The moral of this story is not everything that's slick is non-stick and not everything that's non-stick is slick. An important differentiation when cooking eggs or crêpes.

AB: Say, if Teflon's the slickest substance on earth, how do they get it to stick to a pan?
 W: First they sandblast the surface of the pan to roughen it, then they apply a primer with Teflon already imbedded in it. Now, will you make like Teflon and slip out of my sight?
AB: [laughs] Au revoir, mademoiselle.

The word "Teflon" is often used to describe
anything ... or anyone that's slippery.

The Kitchen

    My shiny, new, non-stick pan is getting nice and toasty over medium heat. Now even though this is a non-stick pan and doesn't technically need any lubrication, we're going to add some anyway because we'd like to also make our crêpe slick and the butter will also bring a nice, nutty flavor to the party. We don't want a lot. Just enough to coat the bottom of the pan.

Butter - To Coat Pan

    Now as far as adding batter, I like to use just this little quarter cup measure to keep me kind of honest. For a pan this size, I'm probably not going to use more than about an ounce of batter. So heat looks about right, my butter is bubbling but not burning, so in goes the batter. And I like to keep the batter moving for quite awhile after it's in the pan. That's going help it kind of set up nicely.
    Now if the heat is a little too high, the batter is going to start to scramble on the bottom and you're going to get little holes and ... well, I can see it's already happening. Oh well. Listen, the truth is is 9 times out of 10 the very first crêpe is not going to work out anyway. The heat's going to be a little off or the batter's going to be off. Just go ahead and cook the gosh-darn thing and serve it to the dog. Heck, that's what he's there for, right?
    Now that we've got that taken care of our pan is perfectly lubed and we can cool off the pan a little and try again. Just keep the pan moving barely. You'll see it start to thicken and when it does you can slowly let the pan come back down. Now if you've lubed correctly, you're not going to have any sticking, even along the very, very thin edge. And that's great because you'll know when to flip the crêpe just by watching for those corners to kind of turn back on themselves a little.
    Now when it comes time to flip, a lot of folks like to use this kind of long, wooden spatula and scoop it and flip it. But, I was raised in pancake land so [flips it]. That's a flip for me. Let this sit for about another 10 seconds just to set the other side.

If you prefer darker, crispier crepes, use a little more butter.

    You can stock pile your crêpes and keep them warm for about half an hour in an oven set to its very lowest setting. But once you've accumulated this many, you might want to consider a long term storage scenario.
    Your refrigerator can provide sanctuary for up to a week. Just make sure that you put a layer of wax paper in between each crêpe and seal it up in a re-sealable bag. I like to label mine by type. Now if you need even a longer term solution, well, look down.
    Your freezer will buy you an entire month. Now you know, I've been making crêpes all day long and I haven't had a single Mad French Chef moment. I think I'm going to call that doctor and cancel next week's appointment.

  AB: That's right, doc. I am cured. [beep] Hold on, I've got another call. Hello?
MFC: Cured? Like a great big ham, maybe. I'm not through with you yet ...
  AB: Hold please. Doc, it's him. He's on the other line.
    P: Who is on the line, Alton?
  AB: You know. Him. The French Chef. He's there.
    P: Alton, tell me about your crêpes.
  AB: Well, I made a bunch of batches. I made plain and savory and sweet. They're
       all over the place. They're beautiful.
MFC: How did you fill them? Tell the Doctor about that.
  AB: Well, I didn't fill them with anything. I ...
    P: Sounds like we have some more work to do.
  AB: [sighs] I guess so.
    P: Fill your crêpes and call me in the morning.
  AB: But what am I supposed to do about 'him'. He's on the other line right now.
    P: Alton, there is no one on the other line.
MFC: She doesn't believe you. Ha, ha, ha.
    P: Goodbye.
MFC: Ah, you are such a sucker. I can't believe ...
  AB: Au revoir.

The most popular crepe filling in France: Jam.

The Kitchen

    Doc wants me to go French. Fine. There's nothing Frenchier on earth than a duxelles or, as the French say, doo-ZHELL. It's really just a paste of mushrooms and onions cooked together. But over there they use it for everything. You can use it as a soup base, a sauce base, you can stuff them into crêpes. Heck, I'm pretty sure there are buildings over there built on a foundation of dry duxelles.


    Anyway, you're going to need a medium onion, diced, and a pound of mushrooms. Now I like to mix it up and use half brown mushrooms and half shitake mushrooms. Slice them all—and, yes, I do like an egg slicer for that—and then finely dice half of that. Perfect.

1 Medium Onion, Diced

1 lb Mushrooms
(1/2 Brown, 1/2 Shitake)

Slice All Mushrooms

Finely Dice 1/2 of Mushrooms

    Sweat the onion over medium low heat with two tablespoons of butter just until it turns pale. Then add the mushrooms and season with a teaspoon of kosher salt. Now just allow this mixture to cook, stirring every few minutes, until it reduces to about a third its original size. Remember, mushrooms are mostly water.

2 Tbls Butter

1 tsp Kosher Salt

    Pour in 4 ounces of whole milk and then let that reduce down until it becomes kind of like a loose paste. Then add half a cup of shredded provolone cheese and stir until it kind of comes together into a pot-pie type consistency—and yes, that's a technical term. Give it a taste and add more salt and plenty of pepper if you like.

4 oz Whole Milk

1/2 Cup Provolone
Cheese, Shredded

Salt And Pepper To Taste

    Now, place two crêpes on a buttered sheet pan. And make sure you use two on the bottom just kind of as an insurance policy. That way if one sticks, you'll still be able to get your cake off the pan. Ladle on a thin layer of the duxelles and sprinkle with chopped chives. And top that with another crêpe and just repeat until you've got a nice little stack. Go as high as you like, but I think we'll keep this one to about 8.

2 Crepes
Thin Layer Duxelle [sic]
Chopped Chives
1 Crepe
Duxelle [sic]
Chopped Chives

    Sprinkle parmesan on the top layer and then pop it into a 250 degree oven just long enough to warm it through. Cut into wedges and serve as an appetizer or alongside a salad as a main course. Of course, you're going to be wanting dessert, too. Right?

Parmesan Cheese


    Ah. How's this for French. The year: 1897. The place: Paris. And actress named Suzanne Reichenberg known as Suzette is performing at the Comédie Française. A particular scene calls for her to prepare and serve crêpes on stage. Now stunt crêpes were provided nightly by a local restaurateur named, Monsieur Joseph and this is our version of that dish.

    Combine four ounces of orange liqueur with a tablespoon each of white and brown sugar. Heat these over medium heat until the sugar melts and the liquid reduces au sec. Monter au beurre* with a quarter pound of softened butter. As soon as the sauce starts to tighten up, add the crêpes one at a time, coat and fold into quarters and then plate along with some ice cream [phone rings] and a little of the sauce ... excuse me.

4 oz Orange Liqueur
1 Tbls White Sugar
1 Tbls Brown Sugar
1/4 lb Butter, Softened

  AB: Hello.
MFC: You idiot. You did not flambé. You must flambé the crêpes suzette. Everyone knows that ...

    I know. I know. Flambé. It is indeed part of the whole crêpes suzette mythology. But it doesn't light my fire because it doesn't do anything for the food. You see, for the alcohol to burn it has to be in vapor form. So it's burning, it's not in the food anymore. It's theater created for theater! All right. Now that we got that out of the way, I gotta go figure out what to do with the rest of these crêpes. Pardon.

    [This next scene involves Alton's "discovery" of the use of a muffin pan to shape the crêpes into a form, while Also Sprach Zarathustra plays in the background.]

    [voice over] Now what to put in there. Let's see. I'll give our quiche Lorraine action some eggs. Lots of eggs. And then we'll add a little milk to that and mixing. Some salt. Ground black pepper. Yeah. Just fold and unfold. Then fill. Something action. Something onion action. Some crumbled up bacon. Bacooon! And, of course, some cheddar cheese. Sharper the better. Then I just ladle in the filling. Probably have enough here for two batches, but that's okay. Fill them to the top and in the oven.

8 Eggs
1 1/2 Cup Milk
1 tsp Salt
Ground Black Pepper
Sautéed Onions
Crumbled Bacon
Shredded Cheese
Crepe Mixture

    [voice over] Nice. Now let's see if we can ratchet one of these lovelies out of here. Ouch. Hot. There we go. Perfect.

350° For 15 mins.
or Until Set

Every major world cuisine has a form of crepe.
In Mexico, it's called a tortilla.

Psychiatrist Office

AB: So, how is it?
P: Mmm. It's delicious. And you say the flambé does absolutely nothing for the flavor?
AB: Nope. It's all for show.

P: Fascinating. Obviously you've gotten in touch with your French side. What else have you learned?
AB: Well, I know one thing. When you're making crêpes you've got to make the batter really, really loose, right? You've got to let it rest so there won't be too many bubbles in it, okay? You've got to toast butter in the pan right before you add the batter and get this. You don't have to use one of those fancy French crêpe pans, okay? All you need is a good Teflon pan. Oh, and get this. You make one blender full of batter, you split it in half, one half you add herbs and salt to for savory crêpes and the other half you add sugar and flavorings like, I don't know, maybe ... P: Orange juice.
AB: Orange juice. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You're on it. Orange juice. And, and, you get like two courses out of one blender. It's amazing.

Keep Batter Loose

Let Batter Rest

Lightly Butter Pan

Use Any Non-Stick Skillet

Divide Batches Into Different "Flavors"

P: Mmm. Go on.
AB: Well, I will. You can stack 'em, you can roll 'em, you can fold 'em, you can twist 'em up, you can make a little cake out of 'em. And get this, the leftovers you just wrap, refrigerate for up to a week or you can freeze them for up to a month.

Stack, Roll, Fold, Twist ...

Wrap And Refrigerate For A Week ...

P: And since you've made these discoveries, have you seen ...
AB: ... him? Doc, you are looking at a Frenchman-free zone.
P: [brings out a French Chef oven mitt]
AB: What's that.
P: I want you to tell the Mad French Chef you don't need him anymore.
AB: You want me to talk to an oven mitt.
P: It's an important step in your recovery.
AB: [sighs] All right. You've been right about things so far, I guess. [puts it on] Just ... [to the mitt] I don't need you any more.
MAD FRENCH CHEF: [the mitt begins to 'talk'] I'll say. What you need is a quick kick to the heinie.
P: Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all.
MFC: Hey, who asked you, sweet knees. Why don't you go get me an espresso, huh?
AB: Hey, don't talk to her that way.
MFC: Hey, what's dis? Looks like you've been makin' the pancakes again, huh?
AB: Those are not pancakes, buster. Those are crêpes and they are light and they are thin and they are tender and they're, they're good.
MFC: Hey, heh. Yeah, good and lumpy, I'd say.
AB: Why I oughta ... [swings and misses]
MFC: [hits back] Hey, you think you can get away with that?
AB: Come here.
MFC: Ooo. Give me that.
P: I may get a book deal out of this guy yet.
MFC: See you next time on Good Eats. [to the doc] Heh, give me some sugar, huh? Heh, heh.

Proof reading help by Sue Libretti

*Monter au beurre: According to it means "bring up to the butter," but what do I know. Addendum: Kevin Forsyth sends this meaning: "to incorporate, with a whisk or rotating movements, butter into a sauce. It is applied during the final phases of sauce making."  Thanks Kevin.

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010