Monday, August 11, 2008
My 12-year-old daughter, by most accounts (not just Mom's, Dad's, and the grandparents'), is a mature, witty child with very few food hangups and an adventurous palate. So you might reasonably think she would be an ideal dining-out companion. Alas, you would be mistaken. Place a menu in front of this girl and it all breaks down. My otherwise delightful child is no picnic when it comes to ordering off the menu in a restaurant. Inevitably, she's simply undone by free will, a victim of the classic human condition.
To be fair, this crisis is always worst at breakfast. Perhaps it's a low-blood-sugar thing, or maybe it's just that the stress of making a choice is compounded by the sweet-versus-savory dilemma that has to be conquered first. Who knows? Not I, not she. But what I do know is that between the time the hostess drops the menus on the table and the waitperson returns to take our orders, high drama will ensue. And please, forget about offering helpful suggestions.
So, what I have learned, is that the best choice, for all of us, is no choice for her. My husband or I orders for her. She gets one chance to express a preference, but any waffling immediately overrides this, and then we choose on her behalf. And because we've known her for every minute of her twelve-plus years, we can make a pretty good selection. In fact, she's always, always been satisfied with our choice. (And, I suspect, a little relieved.) Furthermore, once the order is in, my girl is all sweetness and light again.
Case in point, we recently took a family vacation to Boston. (A fine city - we love it.) The restaurant we chose had a limited weekend menu, but a few interesting options. There was waffling, so I went head and ordered crepes for her. Crepes with strawberries and sour cream. She thanked me for making an interesting choice: "Crepes! Who eats crepes for breakfast! I wish we'd gone to Dunkin Donuts."
I explained that crepes were a lovely breakfast food. Like pancakes, but more ladylike, more refined. I suggested one could, in fact, learn a lesson from crepes. My suggested was rejected as unhelpful and provocative. Mild to moderate sulkiness followed. She sulked a little too.
But then, the waitress arrived with plates. I took the crepes and placed them in front of my daughter, lovingly witholding a motherly "I told you so." Oozing with luscious sweetened sour cream and bathed in strawberries and syrup, suddenly crepes seemed like a very good idea. I had a moment of weakness where I considered switching plates with her - whole-grain pancakes being a very good object lesson in this case - but I settled for a single heavenly bite. And later, a demure apology: "I didn't realize what they'd be like. I was confusing the crepes with tuilles." (Yes, and how could I not forgive this child?)
So, what lesson was learned from this experience? Not, as hoped, "When in doubt just listen to Mom," but "Hey, crepes are pretty amazing." Needless to say, the requests began pouring in the minute we got home.
Now, I will confess here that I'd never made crepes before. Why? Frankly, for the same reason I've never frenched a lamb chop: I was intimidated. Pancakes, fritters, flapjacks - bring 'em on! Grease up the skillet, dump in little piles of batter, fry-flip-fry, voila! Crepes, on the other hand, are delicate, lithe things that require specialized techniques and equipment. Or so I thought.
I was wrong. My crepes did not require anything special at all. I used my smallest frying pan, made one at a time (they cook VERY quickly), and the whole batch was done in about half the time it takes to make as many pancakes. I am now a crepe-making devotee. And if you give this recipe a go, I think you will be too. Enjoy!
Basic Crepes with Honey-Almond Ricotta and Dark Cherries
For the Crepes:
2 large eggs
1 cup milk (skim okay)
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vegetable oil or melted butter
For the Honey-Almond Ricotta Filling:
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/3 cup light sour cream
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 tablespoons honey
For the Cherries:
2 tablespoons honey
2 cups frozen dark sweet cherries, thawed, with juices
1. To make the crepe batter: Place eggs, milk, flour, salt, and oil or melted butter in blender container and process until mixture is smooth. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. In the meantime, prepare filling and cherries. [Recipe notes: Feel free to replace up to half of the flour with whole wheat flour.]
2. To make the filling: In a small nonreactive mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese, sour cream, almond extract, and 2 tablespoons of honey. Stir until well mixed and set aside.
3. To prepare the cherries: Drizzle 2 tablespoons honey over cherries in a mixing bowl; stir to coat cherries. Set aside.
4. To make the crepes: Heat a crepe pan or small skillet over medium-high heat. Brush or spray pan with vegetable oil and pour about 1/4 cup of batter into center of pan. Swirl the pan so that the batter coats the bottom. After about 2 to 3 minutes, carefully work a thin spatula under the crepe and flip it. Cook for another minute, then slide onto a serving platter. Keep warm in 170 degree F oven until all the batter has been cooked. [Recipe notes: Place small sheets of waxed paper between crepes to keep them from sticking to each other. I laid them out on the plate like a three-leaf clover, then placed a sheet of waxed paper on top, then another layer, and so forth.]
Stack the crepes between layers of waxed paper . . .
5. To assemble the crepes: Warm ricotta mixture and cherries in the microwave (or place bowls in the oven to warm while you are making the crepes). Lay a crepe out on a flat work surface. Spoon a dollop of the warmed ricotta mixture onto the crepe and top with a spoonful of cherries and juice. Fold up the two sides, dust with powdered sugar, if desired, and serve immediately.
Spoon warmed ricotta filling and cherries over the crepe . . .
Leftover unfilled crepes may be frozen for future use. Simply layer them with sheets of waxed paper, wrap in plastic wrap and then in foil. Use within a couple of weeks for best results.
Serves 4 to 6