Les Crêpes!

Les Crêpes!

Crêpes @ St Marks

Crêpes is the first dish my grand father taught me how to make. The word itself warms my heart. Crêpes are made year around but the very special day is February 2nd (I am a little late!), also known as, Candlemas, Imbolc and of course Groundhog day. Candlemas is the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of Jesus at the temple, which ritual goes back to the Hebrew tradition: Pidyon Haben “Consecrate to me every first born: man and beast the first issue of every womb is mine” [Exodus 13 1 2]. And the purification of the Virgin Mary because the purification was necessary before her and Joseph could redeem their first born. The romans were also celebrating a purification festival in February called the Lupercalia. The Lupercalias were dedicated to the god Pan (yesterday’s post as something to do with it) and were still celebrated until 492 AD when by pope Gelassius I abolished it. He replaced it by procession holding candles, to symbolize the light of the divine spirit. Also on February 2nd; Imbolc which in old Irish means “in the belly”, Imbolc celebrate the midwinter and the return of the sun. It is tradition for every candle or lamp in the house to be lit for a little while for welcoming the return of the Sun. Reverence of the snow is also a part of this celebration. The ancient Greeks were celebrating the Thesmophoria associated with the disappearance and reappearance of Persephone the daughter of Demeter Goddess of the harvest. So for all those good reasons we make Crêpes, a golden, sun shaped flour based dish to celebrate the earth and the sun.

View video to  make a lump free batter:

Mix dry ingredients. In the center of a bowl make a “well”, push dry ingredients on the sides and place the eggs in the center. With a wooden spoon integrate the flour slowly. Work from the inside toward the outside. When the mixture is all smooth start adding milk slowly. It is important to let the crêpes batter rest for at least 1 hour ( 2 hours is even better) to let the flour absorb liquid very thoroughly and let ingredients really bind together.

Sweet Crêpes Batter:

2 cups Flour
1/2 cup of Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
4 Eggs
2 1/2 cups of Milk
2 tablespoons Vanilla Extract
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or Rum

Keep in mind that the delicacy of the crêpes is due to their extreme thinness.

1 Use a small (non stick) crêpes pan (10 inches).
2 Melt a stick of butter and pour it in a small bowl. Warm you pan. Brush a small amount of butter all round the pan (do not ever let butter become black). You will brush the pan before making each crêpe.

3 Hold the pan slightly tilted and with a small ladle pour about 4 tablespoons of batter on the high side. Quickly tilt the pan the other way you want the batter to coat the entire bottom of the pan before thickening. You will learn this wrist movement called “le tour de main”. The thinner the coating will be the better the crêpes. At this point if you feel that your batter is too thick you can add a little milk or a little water. Mix the batter gently frequently. The first two or three crêpes are never perfect, the pans, and you, need to get “in the mood”. So do not panic!

4 Cook the crêpes at medium heat for about 50 seconds (this time is very approximate, you will have to judge for yourself). Turn it over with a spatula (a thin wooden one or a plastic one, especially if you have non stick pan), or if you fill more accomplish bang the pan a few times and flip the crêpe. This side will cook faster. Stack your crêpes on a plate, over a double boiler if you want to keep them warm.

Crêpes Suzette
(Use sweet batter)
2 sticks sweet butter, softened
8 tablespoons sugar
Grated rind of two oranges or 4 tangerines
1 Orange or 2 Tangerine Juice
Armagnac and Grand Marnier

Mix sugar, butter, oranges or tangerines rind and juice and mix it until smooth. A food processor might do the tick faster.

At serving time, melt 4 to 6 tablespoons of the sauce in the skillet. When sizzling hot, place 4 to 6 crêpes folded in fourth in the sauce. When they are well bathed in the sauce and warmed up, pour 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons of Armagnac and Grand Marnier on top, and light a match, stir the crêpes in the flaming sauce. Keep your head back, check for loose clothing, turn the vent off because flames could be sucked. Repeat the operation for each batch.

Savory Crêpes Batter:
(For 4)
2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
4 Eggs
2 ½ cups of Milk
2 tablespoons Cognac
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
½ teaspoon Salt

Fillings for savory crêpes:
Crêpes stuffed with Roquefort, mushrooms and spinach with béchamel sauce.
3 tablespoons of butter
5 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of milk
Melt 3 tablespoons of butter over low heat in a heavy sauce pan. Add 5 tablespoons of flour, move away from heat and stir briskly until smooth. Add 2 cups of milk put back on the stove, stir continually with a wire whisk to prevent any lumps. At this point you have your basic sauce that you can use for many other recipes. Example:
If you added a little nutmeg, salt and pepper and pourred it over steamed cauliflower, topped it with cheese and broiled it until golden. You have: “choux fleur au gratin”.
Today we will be using the béchamel as the “binder” for the stuffing in the savory crêpes,

1 lb Mushrooms sliced
2 Bunches of Spinach
3 tablespoons of Roquefort cheese
1 crushed clove of garlic.
Salt, pepper, nutmeg to your taste.

Sauté the mushrooms until soft and until all their moisture as evaporated. Keep them aside.
Sauté the spinach until soft and all until all their moisture as evaporated, towards the end add the mushrooms and the garlic to it. Set in a bowl, add salt, pepper, nutmeg.
Add crumbled Roquefort into your béchamel, put it back on a medium heat burner to get the cheese to dissolve, stir constantly. Transfer into the bowl with mushroom and spinach mixture, fold gently all together, taste to adjust salt and pepper. Take your savory crêpes put some mixture in, and roll it gently set on a platter.

Crêpes à la Saucisse et aux Poivrons.
1 lb Sausage meat
2 thinly sliced Onions
1 Green, 1 Red Pepper thinly sliced.
Warm up a pan with some olive oil. Sauté the meat thoroughly , Set aside. Sauté the onions and the peppers until caramelized. Mix both mixture. Salt, freshly ground Pepper. Put some mixture into the savory crêpes roll and serve with a Duxelle de champignons.

Duxelle de Champignons
1/2 LB Mushrooms chopped very small.
2 Shallots chopped also very small
1 tablespoon of Butter
1/2 cup White wine

Melt gently the butter in sauté pan. Add mushrooms and shallots and sauté gently until all liquid has evaporated. Add 1/2 cup white wine and let evaporate again. Add some salt and pepper to your taste and basic Duxelle is ready. For your crêpes I would recommend to add some crème fraîche in the mixture, cook gently until the consistency is satisfactory and serve as the sauce of your sausage and green and red pepper crêpes.

To learn all the secrets of crêpes making book an entertaining Crepes Party at Voilà Nicole!

Lovy Ducky

Lovy Ducky

Finally back on the blog. It took me several weeks to move website and blog to a new web hosting company. I could not have done it without the help of WordPress guru: Jeff Houdyschell at www.wordpressmax.com. Meanwhile I have been cooking several fun recipes, I will report about them later but today I will share yesterday ‘s Valentine Day entree that I recommend for any festive occasion:

Braised Duck with Blood Orange Sauce served with Chinese Greens & Crêpes Vanel

canard a l'orange sanguine

For the Duck:

1 d’Artagnan Pekin Duck (at the Park Slope Food Coop 5.29lb $17.46).

2 big onions roughly chopped
4 carrots roughly chopped
1/2 bottle white wine
1 bouquet garni with parsley, a piece of freshginger, and a laurel leave
3 organic blood oranges
6 tablespoons of sugar
1 Tbsp of rice vinegar

Crêpes Vanel
coming soon. It will be the subject of separate blog)

Chinese Greens
1 lb –
of what I identified as– green stem Pak Choy.
2 cloves of garlic (slivered)
Coat the pan with olive oil under high medium heat. Quicky fry slivered garlic, add the greens & toss them in. Add 1/2 cup of water & cover tightly, lower the heat & cook until just tender.

Duck recipe:
On top of the stove preheat a roasting pan coated with duck fat or olive oil. When the pan is warm enough golden the duck (previously salted & peppered) on both sides. Remove it from the pan and in that same pan sauté the onions and carrots until translucent. Pour 1/2 bottle of white wine and add the bouquet garni , return the duck on top of the pan.
I have a very small oven, so in my case I cooked the duck for 1 hour at 400º (preheated oven). I really don’t like overcooked duck, this one was thoroughly cooked but on the pink side. It was incredibly moist and juicy.
Meanwhile: I zested 3 oranges, blanched the zests briefly & saved them for later; then I squeezed the juice of 3 blood oranges, reserved it and started working on the gastrique. This is a classic and old cooking technique that gives certain sauce exquisite texture and taste.

In a non reactive sauce pan put 6 tablespoons of sugar and melt over medium heat. Do not add any water, let the sugar dissolve and it will turn rapidly into caramel. Be very careful not to burn it, shake the pan to make sure it will melt evenly. Once the caramel is golden add the orange juice and 1 Tbsp of rice vinegar. The caramel will first harden,
bring the pan back on a medium low flame it will melt again, reduce it by 1/2 or until the consistency is satisfactory, that is it coats a wooden spoon. Reserve.

Remove the duck from the pan, strain the juices. Try to take out as much of the fat as possible (one of those separator that pour from the bottom might be helpful) and pour the juices into the gastrique. Salt and pepper to taste, let reduce to the same consistency described above.

Meanwhile carve your duck and arrange the pieces either in a warm plate or platter for family style serving. Finish up your sauce just before serving. Adjust salt & pepper to taste and “monter la sauce au beurre” that is to swirl in, until completely melted, a few small dollops of unsalted butter. That will give your sauce a velvety texture and a rich flavor. The only draw back is that once “monté au beurre” it might be difficult to reheat your sauce without having it separating. At the risk of being immodest I will say it was truly delicious and my date ( this is such a funny word especially after 20 years together!) loved it.

Bon Appetit!

Petit Diner Rapide (Fast Food II)

Petit Diner Rapide (Fast Food II)

petit diner

Still not much time to cook due to the last crunch on my next cd with Michael Bisio (title: “Whisk! Don’t Churn”) scheduled to be released on March 12 at Justin’s in Albany where it was recorded live November 20th 2008, remember?
We still had to eat and I must say I like the challenge of having to make something really quick with whatever is available or brought to me. Pierre went shopping; he strolled down to our favorite local store, Aunt Halime’s Halal Meat on 3rd Avenue and Ovinton, and brought back a beautiful rack of lamb, a bag of frozen artichoke bottoms (unusual to find artichokes bottoms, it is usually hearts) and got a nice bottle of Cahors at the local wine store.

artichoke bottoms

We decided that it was too much to make the entire rack for the two of us. I cut out 6 small chops and he took the rest up to Albany. The artichokes bottoms where a great accompaniments to the simply pan fried chops. I was also impressed by their quality; they were firm & flavorful, grown in Egypt and imported via Beirut, Lebanon. Of course I had to go visit the website, and the Alwadi company doesn’t look like a mom and pop’s business, but more like the Goya of Middle Eastern food. Still I can’t complain about the artichoke, au contraire, and they didn’t list any preservatives, which is rare for frozen artichokes. Though I will not use them too often as I am trying to be mindful of my carbon footprint!


This is how I prepared them:
I steamed artichokes for few minutes. I added olive oil & a dollop of butter to the same pan I had fried the lamb chops in, sautéed the bottoms cut an half for few minutes, adding 2 cloves of garlic. Before serving, add chopped parsley. C’est tout!

We shared the bottle of Cahors with the help of my son Joseph who stopped by for a drink and then we returned to our cd designing happy and satisfied!

Winter Brunch

Winter Brunch

Winter Quiche

Winter Quiche
Swiss chards
, onions, jambonneau, maple syrup
Mixed Greens
any greens dressed with a garlic vinaigrette
Orange & Pomegranate Salad
Sugar cookies
Sliced oranges, pomegranate, roasted sliced almonds, cinnamon

Tired of pancakes and French toasts for brunch? I am! This is a nice variation of the Quiche Lorraine, from Lorraine in the North East of France near the German border. In old cook books it is spelled Kiche, showing its derivation from German – the word is an alteration of the German word Kuchen which means cake. The original recipe is a simple batter with some bacon. My version today uses the traditional batter to which I have added lots of onions, swiss chards and the jambonneau –you can substitute for bacon or porc confit (yummy!). Let your creativity flow and make your own variation using only seasonal produce (that means no tomato in winter!).
A few variation ideas: quiches with leeks & onions; or shrimp & red & yellow bell peppers; or tomato & basil & goat cheese; mais encore spinach & blue cheese …etc

floureddough inweight on

Pate Brisée
2 cups Flour
2/3 stick unsalted Butter (soften not melted)
1 whole Egg
1 dash Salt
1 tablespoon Sugar
a few spoons (3) very cold water
Place the flour in a bowl, make a well in the middle into which you put the butter cut into small pieces, the salt, the sugar, the egg and few spoons of cold water. Knead it all together until all the water is absorbed. Beat it on the counter, form a ball. Keep it in the fridge in a humid cloth.
When ready to use, roll it out on a floured surface and transfer it to a buttered and floured tart dish (about 9 inches).
For quiche and tartes (you can use this dough for pies) pre-cook 10 minutes at 300 degrees. First poke the dough with a fork, cover the bottom with parchment paper and cover with dry garbanzo beans or pie weight –I used foil and black eye beans because I didn’t have either parchment paper or garbanzos; in the kitchen we aways have to improvise!

Generic Batter for Quiche
Beat 4 eggs lightly and mix in 1 1/4 cup of heavy cream, salt, freshly ground pepper, nutmeg.


Today’s filling:
1 onion thinly sliced
2 cups of chards chopped
1 cup of bacon or duck
confit or jambonneau
2 tablespoon maple syrup
salt & pepper

If you are using bacon, sauté it first, then use drippings and in the same pan first sauté the onions until golden, then the Swiss chards until wilted. Add some oil and/or butter if needed.
If you are not using bacon:
Melt a tablespoon of butter with a tablespoon of oil and sauté onions until golden, add the confit and/or the jambonneau & the swiss chards. Add maple syrup. Stir well and scoop out into the pre-baked pie shell. Pour the batter over.
I sometimes top it with Gruyere (real Swiss cheese).
Bake it in the oven for 45 minutes at about 350/375 degrees –you know your oven better that I do.


Serve the quiche with a mixed green salad, dressed with olive oil, rice vinegar, one clove of garlic crushed and minced, salt & fresh ground pepper. (If you haven’t , go see Nicole’s simple salad on YouTube)

For dessert I suggest a refreshing sliced orange & pomegranate salad with roasted sliced toasted almonds & cinnamon. Do not combine the pomegranates & the oranges until ready to serve, the pomegranate will bleed all over the oranges. Sprinkle with cinnamon and top with toasted almonds.

orange & pomegranate salad

About the cookies: it was an experiment. I had a little left over pate brisée and decided to roll the dough in organic crytalized sugar, cut it into pieces, flattened them and an bake them on a buttered sheet. It ended up being a very nice contrast of texture and sweetness with the tangyness of the fruits.
Bon weekend et bon ap!

Le Pot au Feu

Le Pot au Feu

Pot au Feu

Originally Pot au Feu meant an earthenware or a metal cooking pot. Today, it is a common French dish and to me the ultimate winter comfort food. It is very easy to prepare and economical, low cost cuts can be used. It can be prepared in 15 minutes, then simmers all afternoon long filling the house with a marvelous aroma. Several cuts of meat can be used but preferably cartilaginous cuts such as oxtail and marrowbone (I got a beautiful beef shank marbled with cartilage). My mother always combines veal & beef cuts.
Equivalent dishes are: the New England boiled dinner, consisting of corned beef or a ham shoulder, & the Irish corn beef and cabbage.
There are many variations and they are all good, the only one rule is too cook it long enough. What I really like about the French version is the cleanness of the taste. Unless it is homemade, I don’t eat much corn beef, the prepared ones at the store are usually too salty, full of m.s.g and other preservatives. I have added Jerusalem Artichokes in this version, it is unusual and it was a test —the main reason being that I had some in the fridge but I didn’t have any potatoes at hand. No regrets! It added a subtle layer of flavor, I will do it again!
I was curious to price my Pot of Feu –which lasted for three meals. I did the shopping at the Park Slope Food Coop.

1 (1.42lb) Grass fed Beef Shank bone $6.13
3 small organic carrots carrots $0.55
1 organic turnip $0.31
2 organic leeks $1.37
3 Jerusalem Artichokes $1.85
Total $10.23

already in my pantry:
3 ribs of Celery
1 Onion
3 cloves ( stick them onto the peeled onion)
4 peppers grains
1 teaspon of corse sea salt
Whole grain mustard (moutarde à l’ancienne)
Gherkins (cornichons)

pot au feu

Put the meat, the vegetables (except the potatoes &/or the Jerusalem artichoke) & the spices into the pot and cover with cold water.
Bring to a boil and let simmer gently for 2 to 3 hours. The meat as to be really tender. 1/2 hour before the end of the cooking add the potatoes and/or the Jerusalem artichokes.

bouillon de pot au feu

Strain the broth onto a soup tureen and have the soup as a first course. If you wish you can add vermicelli or small pasta onto the broth.


Don’t forget to eat the marrow! blow out the marrow from the bone onto a piece of bread, sprinkle with sea salt. YUMMY!

Serve meat, veggies & condiments & Bon Appetit!

[ Pierre’s addendum: & don’t forget to tell your readers that when you have slurped your way through the soup & there is just a little left at the bottom of your plate, you add a good rasade — shot — of red wine, mix it with the soup, put down your spoon, raise the plate with two hands & slurp the mixture down with audible slurping satisfaction noises. It’s called “faire chabrot” which means etymologically “to drink like a goat.” It’s a total pleasure.]