Crêpes of Wrath

Food Network chefs hate me for sharing this one weird trick

This video of Chef Jacques Pépin explaining how to make crêpes is a game changer. It’s simple, easy, only takes a few minutes, and the results are delicious. Turns out that if you want to learn how to make something, going to the person who is famous for making them is a good idea.

Even if you don’t feel like making them, it’s just fun to hear him say “crêpe” over and over again.

I’ve tried making them before, with recipes from Epicurious, Bon Apetit, Alton Brown via the Food Network, and various random let-me-tell-you-my-life-story-before-I-get-to-the-recipe blogs, and the results have ranged from “inedible” to “unremarkable and definitely not worth the effort.” The consensus online seems to be that making crepes requires a blender and at least a couple of hours, at which point you have to wonder who’s got that kind of time. Pépin’s method is so simple and straightforward that I can finally see the appeal.

The other cool thing about Pépin’s video is that it shows crepes can easy to make and easy to serve. For years there’s been such a proliferation of crepe restaurants around the Bay Area, that I just kind assumed you had to go crazy with bananas and strawberries and whipped cream and ham and cheese and greens, and if you’re not stuffing them with tons of food, are you even making crepes at all? But as it turns out, nothing but a spoonful of jelly and a sprinkle of sugar afterwards is beyond perfect.

I feel like Food Network and the proliferation of cooking shows created an arms race where home cooking had to make for interesting programming instead of good food. I like the idea of getting back to keeping it simple. Frankly, I think I got steered down a bad path by Alton Brown, who I finally realized is a lot better at being a TV personality than any kind of authority on food. The “multi-taskers” cult are free to come at me.

An important and dire warning: I can only endorse the recipe in the above video. The first time I tried it, it was super-easy and the results were fantastic. There’s at least one variant of an “official” Jacques Pépin recipe for crêpes going around that I’ve tried three times so far with no success. If it includes any vegetable or canola oil, the results come out less like crepes and more like those “movie magic” shows where a makeup artist is preparing a prosthetic. They’re rubbery and oily; you can see them in the pan just sweating oil.

I spend most of my time these days watching Disney & Universal YouTubers going through the parks, and everybody’s been raving about a new crepe stand that opened at Universal Studios. I get a craving every time I see them, so now I can sit back and pretend I’m in Orlando. All I’d need is a bunch of heat lamps and someone telling me over and over that I can’t ride anything because I’m too fat.1From eating crêpes.

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    From eating crêpes.

5 thoughts on “Crêpes of Wrath”

  1. These are akin to the crepes I’ve always made — mine I call “crepes Bernier” because they come from a recipe from my godfather, Don Bernier. I like the trick of beating the egg with the dry stuff and a little of the liquid first, that’s a good one, I will certainly have to try that. I’ve never been good at doing them on a pan, but I have a non-stick griddle that has always worked a trick. I just quickly smooth the batter out with the back of the measuring cup (I have some stainless steel ones that have beveled bottoms that smooth them nicely). My kids loved ’em growing up — my younger son always had his plain, and my older son preferred chocolate syrup. I like them with strawberry preserves.

    1. Not as useful with a griddle, but another of the most useful tips in that video is to melt the butter in the pan and pour it into the batter. Makes everything faster and skips the separate step of having to grease the pan.

      When all the crepe places started opening up around the bay area, I was surprised because I don’t recall them ever being a thing when I was growing up. I just assumed they were this super-fancy French thing that was supposed to be complicated to make, so I didn’t think twice when all the recipes seemed to over-complicate the process. If I’d had known that they’re even easier to make than traditional pancakes, I would’ve been making them this whole time.

      1. Yeah, they’re pretty great. That trick with the butter in the pan is the bomb — sadly, I’ve never had a gas stove and so I found the griddle good because I could make enough pancakes for two hungry kids (granted, in more than one batch when they got older) or keep a steady stream of crepes coming. I may have to make myself some next time I hit the grocery store.

        1. That reminds me, I actually picked up his book about technique (“New Complete Techniques”) and it’s good to have on hand when you’re thinking about things you’d like to get better at. I have a couple of his others, too. There’s a recipe in one that is for Chicken Leg “Sausages” where you debone chicken legs so that they make a sort of wrapper that you stuff with diced portobello and some other stuff, and then you wrap them in wax paper/parchment and cook them and they keep the form. There’s a sauce, too, because French. Delicious. He has always been a favorite of mine.

          1. Good to know! YouTube recommended me the above video because I’d been searching for how to make an omelette, and it turns out that’s another thing that I’d been over-complicating for years. I don’t know how relevant an entire cookbook of his recipes would be, since French cooking tends to be incompatible with vegetarians who can’t have a lot of cream or milk.

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