I learned how to make crepes from a French woman I met while I was living in Honduras in the Peace Corps. After I finished my three months of training with a group of 46 other new volunteers, I was then assigned to the city where I spent the majority of my two years in country. It was a big transition to suddenly be a “real” volunteer, far away from home, and trying to accomplish something meaningful in a new, often baffling environment. I was very lucky to have an incredibly kind and welcoming host family, who I lived with for the first two months in my site, and who welcomed me as a member of their clan. And I was lucky to meet Lucie.
Lucie was a French student studying urban planning who, through a series of events that I never 100% understood (we communicated in Spanish, a second language for both of us), was completing a six month internship in Honduras working with the same municipal government that I was. Lucie and I became friends quickly through a shared circumstance – being far away from home in a foreign culture – and through a love of cheese. When my first care package arrived from my parents containing a block of four year old sharp Wisconsin cheddar, the look on Lucie’s face when she bit into it was the look of a partner in crime.
Lucie replied to my cheese offering by teaching me to make crepes on my little single burner cookstove in my bright blue, windowless apartment. When Lucie left Honduras and I had a year and a half left to go, I was very sad to imagine the rest of my time without this friend. And after a few trans-Atlantic emails we, perhaps unsurprisingly, fell out of touch very quickly. We were from different cultures, were different ages, and were in different stages of our lives. Our friendship was very much borne of a place and a situation. But I still think of her every time I make crepes. It is such a beautiful thing to be touched by the people who we encounter in life, even if we only know each other briefly.
Now on to the food.
To make the crepe itself, all you need is eggs, flour, and milk. When Lucie first started to show me how to make them, I asked her how much of each ingredient we’d need. She looked at me like I was a bit crazy and said, “How can we know yet?” She then cracked two eggs into a bowl and added the tiniest pinch of flour. She whisked until the flour was incorporated, then added a little more. Once the flour and eggs started to come together, she could add larger quantities of flour, maybe an eighth to a quarter cup at a time. The key is to whisk as much flour into the eggs as you can, until the whisk can barely move through the thick mixture.
Once the batter looks more or less as pictured above (and feels thick on the whisk), it’s time to add milk. Just like when the flour is first added, the key is to drizzle a very small amount of milk in at first, always whisking until it’s completely combined before adding more. Larger quantities of milk can be added the further along you are in the process. When the crepe batter flows off of a spoon like milk, you’re ready to cook.
There are special crepe pans you can buy, but I always just use a regular frying pan, because that’s all I had when Lucie taught me. The key to cooking a crepe well is to oil the pan properly. I do this by pouring some vegetable oil into the pan, and then using a wadded up paper towel to wipe it all around. This spreads the oil evenly and also mops up any excess. I do this in between every single crepe that is cooked.
Your pan should be hot — so hot that drops of water flung on it sizzle and jump. Again there are probably fancier ways to do this, but to pour the crepe, I simply pour a quarter to a third of a cup of batter into the pan and swirl it around to coat the bottom.
Once the crepe seems solid, you’re ready to flip it. A good way to test the crepe’s solidity is to run a fork along the edge of it. If the edge is lifting up and appears to hang together, you’re ready! If the fork seems to simply be pushing the crepe around, give it another minute. The crepes cook quickly, usually less than a minute on each side. To flip the crepe, the easiest method is to pry up the edge with a fork, then grab it with your (hopefully clean) fingers and flip the whole thing over with your hands.
If a crepe is all you want, you’re all set!
But… what if you want was Lucie called “The Complete Crepe”? Then you’re going to need another egg, some chopped up ham, and some cheese. Lucky you.
To make the complete crepe, crack an egg into the pan, on top of the crepe, after the flip. Do it! Break the yolk! Spread it around! Hey, even lift up the edges of the crepe and let some of the egg fall underneath!
Then throw on some chopped up ham and some grated cheese. In this picture, we are using mozzarella and goat cheese.
You are so close! Just let the egg cook a little bit and then…
Again, even with the egg all over the place, the easiest way to close up your crepe is to run the fork around the edge. This time, I’d recommend using the fork itself to lift up the concoction instead of your fingers. But hey, to each his own.
I hope you enjoy. I do, with some regularity, and remember a strange time in my life and afternoons spent with a friend.