Sunday, December 04, 2011

A Flippin’ Good Time

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:

Dear TW,

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.

©2011 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Barbara said...

Leave it to Zany to entertain me on a Sunday morning. I can just picture the entire experience and if anyone can flip a crepe with clever wrist action it ought to be Doc. Lovely to meet her...Zany sure knows how to find fun buddies!
I'm still grinning over the mimosas.

Deana Sidney said...

I have never tried flipping a crepe... I feel like such a coward. For me, when the first crepe turns out well I feel like a master, flipping or not. 9 times out of 10 #1 is a dud, 2 good and after that I am on golden street. They are so simple and delicious... have you ever tried those earthy buckwheat guys from France??? NUM, it's all good... lovely guest post from my old stomping grounds.. sweet home Chicago!

Liz That Skinny Chick Can Bake said...

Oh, my, what amazing brunch options! I don't think I'll ever get to the point where I can flip a crepe, but I'm willing to make these with a spatula :)

Kat said...

I have made many crepes in my lifetime and never attempted to flip. The thought somehow never occurred to me. I have tried my hand (ugh, wrist) at flipping eggs, but always over the sink!! Loved this post.

Gloria Baker said...

Love crepes Thomas these look delicious, now Im thinking maybe for lunch...crepes:)

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

I use a similar pan for my crêpes. I have been making crêpes since I'm young. We love them with real maple syrup or nutella/bananas. Sounds like you had a lot of fun.

Zany said...

Leave it to the food trucks to be the guiding light toward another food adventure. Glad you all enjoyed the crepe adventure - and recipe! Stay tuned for more Zany and Doc adventures :)

Mad Me-Shell said...

I can personally attest to Zany's crepe making skills. The crepe was absolutely heavenly, even without all the meat! And that's saying a lot coming from this girl!!! Zany, please feel free to use me as an official 'taster' anytime!!

Catherine said...

Dear T.W. Sounds like these girls had a fun and delicious Sunday, perfect combination. Blessings, Catherine

Mary Bergfeld said...

Now this is what a guest post is all about :-). It sounds like the gals had a great time and if ever I want a crepe and am in Chicago, I'll know where to go. Have a great day. Blessings to all...Mary

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Thank you Zany for your guest post. Very enjoyable and very true on crepe making. We miss you.

tasteofbeirut said...

A crêpe is not a crêpe unless it is flipped; I guess I must consider myself lucky since I was taught about crêpes and flipping them in my teens. Well, I wish I had the business sense these folks have to turn crêpe-making into a money-making gig (and the genius to get the paying guests to do the work!). woow!!

Velva said...

Zany's crepes rock! A foodie a/k/a " A street food hunter" always lands on her feet. I can see why you miss her!


Fresh Local and Best said...

Zany should guest post more often, this was quite entertaining. Doc also seems like she'd be a lot of fun to hang out with. I'm inspired by this challenge. I'll have to try my hand at flipping crepes.

Ford M said...

Your post got me thinking about all things crepe. In the early 90's, I bought a wool crepe suit in London. The fabric was beautiful, and it was an incredible shade of light green. With great regret, I finally retired it a couple of years ago when I decided to wear only skinny clothes. Then I thought about all those old sitcoms I used to watch from the 60's; whenever someone went out to a fancy French restaurant, they had Crepes Suzette for desert. Of course, I've never had Crepes Suzette, and now I am obsessed, which means I am going to have to scour the entire city to find a place that still serves them. Thanks, TW--another time-consuming, useless endeavour you have inspired me to undertake.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Ford - relax and take some time to smell the crepes, man. Sitting in a cafe eating Crepes Suzette is never, ever a useless endeavor.

Lori Lynn said...

Thoroughly entertaining!
I love the stories from The Windy City.