My love affair with crêpes began in high school when my mom treated me to lunch at a tiny French restaurant in Westport, Connecticut.
She and I lunched there occasionally to share mother-daughter time during my final year of high school and when I was home from college. The chef served fabulous onion soup, but their chicken crêpes were also one of my favorites.
Once my parents moved to Dallas, Mom and I discovered The Magic Pan – a crêperie at NorthPark Center that was all the rage. They specialized in savory and dessert crêpes of every description, and I have wonderful memories of dining there with my mom and sisters.
After I married and lived in Paris, Randy and I found the crêpe carts in Montmartre. The irresistible aroma of hot, sweet batter filled the air and drew me toward where vendors slathered dinner plate-sized crêpes with fruit jam, folded them into quarters, dusted the tops liberally with powdered sugar, and wrapped them in parchment paper for eager customers.
Savory crêpes with hearty fillings are soul-satisfying on cold winter nights and are delicate enough for springtime brunches.
Still, dessert crêpes remain my favorite. The addition of sugar and vanilla transform a standard batter into dessert crêpes so tasty, I usually scarf down the first one unadorned while the second crepe cooks. Fillings can range from fresh strawberries or peaches in the summer, to bananas foster in colder months.
Making crêpes is fun, and they’re easy to do, so if you’ve never tried, a quiet afternoon is an excellent time to experiment.
A nonstick skillet is essential for success. Once the skillet is hot, pour a scant one-fourth cup of batter into the center, swirl the pan to coat the bottom with batter, and place it on the heat just until the edges begin to brown. Using a fork to lift the edge, flip the crepe over to cook briefly on the other side, transfer it to a platter, and continue with the remaining batter.
On Valentine’s Day, my husband Randy and I prefer to dine at home by the hearth. I carefully plan the menu weeks ahead, including a dessert course that feels romantic, but has make-ahead components so we can easily transition from the main course to dessert. This year, I’m recapturing romantic moments in Paris and celebrations in stateside French restaurants by serving Crêpes Suzette as our Valentine’s grand finale.
Crêpes Suzette is a traditional French dessert. Crêpes are bathed in a sauce made from freshly squeezed orange juice, sugar, Grand Marnier, and cold butter, which is slowly whisked into the sauce to thicken it as it simmers. I make the crêpes a day ahead, cover them tightly with plastic wrap, and chill until ready to serve. Then, several hours before dinner, I juice the oranges, cut the butter into small pieces, and return it to the fridge to stay cold, measure out the sugar, and set aside the Grand Marnier and cognac, so preparing the Suzette sauce takes only five minutes. By the time Randy has removed our dinner plates and refilled our wine glasses, our Valentine dessert is ready.
2/3 cup milk
¾ cup flour
dash of salt
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a medium bowl, beat eggs with a whisk, add milk and whisk until well blended. Gradually add flour, whisking until the batter is smooth. Stir in salt, sugar, melted butter, and vanilla. The batter should have the consistency of fresh cream.
Preheat a greased 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, add a scant ¼ cup of batter and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Return the skillet to the heat and cook just until the edge begins to brown. Loosen the edge of the crêpe with a fork, turn it over, and cook the other side 10 seconds. Transfer it to a platter and cover it with a towel. Continue with remaining batter and stack the crêpes, covering with a towel so they don’t dry out.
Yield: 10 crêpes
Suzette Sauce Ingredients:
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (2 medium oranges)
½ cup sugar
dash of salt
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1 tablespoon cognac
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
In a large skillet, stir together orange juice, sugar, salt, Grand Marnier and cognac. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar melts. Whisk in butter two pieces at a time, whisking until it is smooth before adding more. Simmer several minutes until the sauce thickens.
To serve, fold each crêpe in half and in half again, place one or two on a dessert plate, and spoon some of the sauce over the top. Garnish with fresh orange zest.