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The Comeback Kid

Classic Crepes Are Back in Vogue

August 10, 2003|David Leite | David Leite last wrote for the magazine about Portuguese sausage.

The crepe has made more comebacks than Cher and Tina Turner combined. All you have to do is look to the past three decades for proof. In the 1960s, crepes catapulted to renewed fame thanks to Julia Child, who literally ignited our passion for the lacy, thin pancakes when she flambeed crepes suzette on her show "The French Chef." Sadly, though, the crunchy-granola, Birkenstock-wearing craze that closed the decade elbowed out what was considered a fussy, bourgeois cuisine, and the formidable crepe fell out of favor.

Several years later, the crepe was resuscitated by brunch. The 1970s saw us stumbling out of bed on Sundays and gathering in restaurants, where overly sunny waiters were happy to take our orders. Bleary-eyed, we scanned the menu and spotted our old favorite. This time around, though, crepes were tarted up with ingredients that would shock even the most unflappable of Frenchmen: tuna salad; Velveeta, salsa and jalapenos; and Crock-Pot chili. It's no wonder they once again suffered from plummeting Q scores and went the way of the much-ridiculed quiche.

Once again, the French darling is back with renewed style and class, popping up on menus throughout Southern California. "This generation of young people are rediscovering crepes," says Thierry Boisson, chef and owner of Acadie restaurant in Santa Monica. "For them it's a new way to eat and a chance to get away from the fast-food craze."

Boisson's menu doesn't read like those found in France, which list countless combinations that, in some cases, are as old as the crepe. Instead he enjoys coupling ingredients both classic and modern, foreign and domestic, to give a little thrill. Case in point: the Acadie Crepe, which is filled with slow-cooked buttered apples, good ol' American maple syrup, and French vanilla ice cream. However, Boisson is smart enough to know not to mess with a few stalwarts in the crepe pantheon--the traditional butter-and-sugar variety and the upstart of the bunch, the Nutella-filled version.

Anyone who has ever made crepes knows it takes a try or two to get the hang of it. One of the most important steps is to heat the pan properly. Boisson offers these guidelines: If the crepes stick, the pan's too cold; if they bubble like mad, the pan's too hot. A perfect crepe, he says, will bubble a bit, and the edges will curl and crisp slightly. One last thing, don't be afraid to use your fingers when flipping--it's a sign of a true master.

Now go brush up your technique, because if history is any indication, crepes will be making appearances for years to come. Even Cher can't say that.

Chocolate-Coconut Crepes

Makes about 12 crepes

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

Pinch salt

1 3/4 cups milk

2 large eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/2 tablespoon oftened butter for cooking

4 3.5-ounce bars bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

1 cup flaked coconut

Caramel sauce

1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

Mix flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in milk slowly, then add eggs and melted butter and whisk until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Place chocolate in a medium-size bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until boiling. Pour over chocolate and stir until smooth. Set aside for 30 minutes. Meanwhile toast coconut in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Spread on a plate to cool. Whisk chocolate filling until slightly thickened. Be careful not to over beat, or mixture will become stiff. Set aside. It will continue to thicken, but use when still slightly warm to spread more easily. Heat an 8-inch crepe pan or nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot; a drop of water should skitter across surface. Dab softened butter with a paper towel and wipe pan very lightly. Pour in a scant 1/4 cup of batter and quickly tilt and swirl pan until batter evenly coats the bottom. Cook until batter bubbles and looks dry, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. With the tip of a knife, release edge of crepe and flip using fingers. Cook other side until golden, about 45 seconds. Remove to a plate and cover with paper towel. Repeat, stirring batter often. To assemble, drizzle plate with some caramel sauce. Spread 2 heaping tablespoons of filling along lower third of crepe and roll it up. Drop a dollop of whipped cream on top and sprinkle with some coconut.

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