Just as I’ve started to wonder what has become of my pal Zany, this update arrives from the Windy City. Be advised that Francophiles and vegetarians may find the contents of this post disturbing:
I’ve made an interesting discovery about Chicago – it gets cold here. Turning the clocks back brought whipping wind and dropping temperatures in addition to less sunlight – all of which do not bode well for a girl who hunts street food. Thus, I’ve taken my culinary adventures indoors. But don’t worry; I think I found something you’ll “flip” for…intrigued?
I had felt a little stale in the kitchen. My farmers market selection turned to squash and I needed something different. Leave it to Groupon to introduce the idea of a Sunday brunch crepe making class. Luigi opted for a “boy’s weekend” and Mad Me-Shell was working her fingers to the bone, so I enticed my friend Doc along for the ride. Although she spends plenty of hours delivering babies, Doc also loves to cook an authentic Greek meal – usually with a glass of wine in hand. She’s our kind of gal.
Doc and I MAY have spent some time at an establishment on Saturday night, so we had a slow start when Sunday’s class rolled around. After a short bus ride, we arrived at a rather desolate location. We cautiously passed under a railroad track and Doc was certain we were lost in the wrong parts of Chicago. But then I saw it – a parking lot of food trucks – and I knew we had to be close!
We entered a doorway with the “Flip Crepes” sign and were immediately greeted by a kitchen’s warmth and aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Our instructor Ian welcomed us and asked us to pick a working station. Doc settled on station #5 in the back of the room…probably the right selection for two girls who brought their own mimosas.
Once the first mimosa was poured, Ian explained we would make crepe batter, cook the crepes, and then use them as a foundation for Sunday brunch (the kitchen staff prepared various fillings on a buffet). Doc leaned over and whispered, “So, I guess this means if you screw up the crepes you don’t get brunch?”
Doc and I mixed 1 ½ cups of white and wheat flour (we used 1 cup white, and ½ cup wheat), ¼ cup sugar, 1/3 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon (which was optional), 3 large eggs and 3 tablespoons of oil. When all ingredients were blended well, we added 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract. Ian told us adding vanilla too early in the stirring process could break down the vanilla flavor in the final product.
Then came the cooking. Ian invited all students to his station to watch him cook the first crepe. He buttered up his low-lipped pan and scooped a ladle of batter into the center. He instructed us to pour all the batter in the middle first and then use the pan handle to tilt the batter around the pan until the surface was covered. Doing otherwise could cause uneven cooking.
Using a small spatula, Ian frequently lifted the side of the crepe to check for doneness. Once he saw brown, he said it was ready to flip. “Two things about this class,” Ian sang out. “You can only burn the first crepe and you must flip the crepe in the pan – we are called ‘Flip Crepes’ after all.” Doc shot me a petrified look. I took a long draw on my mimosa. Game on.
Back at station #5, Doc decided to take the first crack. She battered the pan and I refilled the mimosas. Once Doc determined the underside was adequately browned, she closed her eyes and took a breath. “It’s all in the wrist,” I assured her. “Really?” she asked pleadingly. “I have no idea,” I replied honestly.
With a quick movement of the pan forward and back, Doc’s crepe shot up in the air and landed back in the pan folded like an omelet. We quickly resuscitated the crepe into its normal shape.
“You’re up!” Doc exclaimed.
I grabbed the side of the work station, took a few deeps, did a full side stretch to the right, and then battered my pan. Doc held her breath as I threw the crepe up in the air and it fumbled back into the pan in a ball. Rushing into ER mode, Doc snatched the spatula and dove in to save my masterpiece.
“Is it going to live?!” I shouted anxiously over her shoulder. Doc moved to the side and I saw my crepe with some life – a little crooked, but it would work. “We’ll save that one for Luigi,” I said.
Our batter yielded 12 crepes, and they actually became more normal looking as we progressed. And yes, we each successfully flipped at least one crepe – which included a celebration similar to a Super Bowl touchdown dance. We were also the last students to finish making our crepes.
The crepe flipping worked up quite a hunger and we approached the brunch buffet with gusto. Doc and I both opted for a savory crepe first which included eggs, bacon, sausage and a touch of hollandaise sauce.
We were pleasantly surprised with our creations – even we couldn’t screw up this recipe! The fillings wrapped in the thin, sweet crepe made a perfect combination. Although one crepe was satisfying, it occurred to me that one could not attend a crepe making class without eating at least one Nutella crepe.
Doc and I ventured back to the buffet and loaded up our sweet crepes. Nutella, strawberries and a healthy dollop of whipped cream on mine, and blueberry preserves, fresh blueberries and whipped cream on Doc’s. “Antioxidants,” Doc said confidently as she piled on the fruit. “You’re the doctor,” I replied.
As we wrapped up our remaining crepes to go, I closed my eyes and took in the smell of a good Sunday brunch. Then something hit me. “We’ve got to make a pit stop,” I said urgently to Doc.
With a special to-go box in hand, I hit the buffet once more. Ten short minutes later, a knock came to Mad Me-Shell’s door. “Got a break for bacon?” I coyly asked. Speechless, Mad grabbed and opened the container and to her delight discovered a double bacon, double sausage crepe. I hope it was the one I successfully flipped in the pan.