Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oooh la la!

A few months ago, I started a cooking group with some fabulous foodie friends. We rotate homes, meeting once a month, to feast on amazing dishes based on a theme. So far the themes have been Chinese New Year, North African Cuisine, Childhood Favorites and World Cup Soccer. Say what? Soccer? We're a creative bunch...the idea was to choose a dish from one of the teams in the playoffs. Germany, Italy, Japan, France and the U.S. were represented.

I was Team France. We were encouraged to wear soccer jerseys or at least don the team colors. I showed up in a French maid's outfit. Yes, I'm that kind of girl. ;0)

My culinary contribution was chocolate crepes filled with strawberries. I bought a wonderful, 8", blue steel crepe pan and perfected a great gluten-free recipe. The base is buckwheat flour. While buckwheat sounds like something we groovy gluten-intolerant people shouldn't eat, it's actually not related to wheat at all. It's a pseudocereal in the family of amaranth and the much loved (at least in my kitchen) quinoa.

That pan has been getting a lot of use in the last week...chocolate crepes for breakfast, lunch, dinner. Oooh la la, indeed!

Chocolate Crepes with Grand Marnier Strawberries and Vanilla Whipped Cream

Grand Marnier Strawberries (aka Boozey Berries)
Wash, dry and chop at least a pound of strawberries. This will be enough for about six 8" crepes. Put them in a bowl and sprinkle them with about a tablespoon of sugar. This is called mascerating and the sugar will mix with the juice from the berries and create a very flavorful strawberry, simple syrup. If you have Grand Marnier in the house, reduce the sugar by about half and pour in a splash or two of the Grand Marnier onto the strawberries and mix well. If you don't have Grand Marnier in the house, put on your shoes, go to the liquor store and buy some. ;0) Set the berries aside to mascerate at room temperature for at least an hour.

Crepe Recipe
2 eggs
2 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (minus 3 tablespoons) buckwheat flour
3 tablespoons good quality dutch processed dark cocoa
4 teaspoons pure cane sugar

Whisk the ingredients together, cover and let the mixture rest in the refrigerator for at least fifteen minutes.

Vanilla Whipped Cream
Whip the heavy whipping cream with good quality vanilla and a little sugar, both to taste. Did you know that if you chill your mixer bowl and beaters or wire whisk attachment in the freezer before use, you'll get a stiffer whipped cream?

Once the berries are nice and syrupy and the crepe mixture has rested a bit in the fridge, stir the mixture well before use. Brush your crepe pan with oil. Grapeseed oil is perfect for crepes because it has a high smoke point and you need the pan good and hot. Also, grapeseed oil is virtually flavorless. Olive oil wouldn't be a wise choice for a sweet dessert crepe like this because of its strong flavor. It could work for a savory crepe but may smoke, so grapeseed oil is my favorite all purpose oil.

Set your burner on medium and after a few minutes if a few drops of water sizzle when dropped on the pan, you're good to go. For an 8" pan, you need exactly 4 tablespoons of crepe mixture for a crepe that's not too thin or too thick but, as Goldilocks said, just right. Play around with the utensils in your kitchen beforehand to find a small ladle or tiny sauce pitcher or such that can hold 4 tablespoons, as you'll want to pour that amount in all at once and quickly swirl the pan for even coverage. Keep the pan on medium heat and don't walk away from the stove. Once the edges start to firm up and get crispy (after approximately two minutes) you'll want to carefully flip the crepe by using a small spatula to pry the crepe up a small section at a time. Cooking time really varies by stove and you'll get the hang of it, even if you botch up the first crepe or two. The recipe makes at least 10 or 12 crepes, so you have plenty to experiment with.

Fill the crepes with your wonderful, syrupy, boozey strawberries and top with whipped cream. A drizzle of chocolate sauce across the top wouldn't hurt either. Bon appetit!

Afterthoughts: The crepe mixture will keep in the fridge for two to three days in a covered, airtight container. The mascerated strawberries breakdown after several hours and get mushy. Pick up an extra pound of berries and prepare as detailed above right before use or try raspberries or some other fabulous concoction to go with the second round of crepes.