Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Happy Pancake Day!

It's been a crazy-busy weekend in the foodie department with Valentine's Day and Chinese New Year's coming so close together. Not to make it more complicated, but I'd like to add another culinary celebration to the mix: Pancake Day. Today is Shrove Tuesday or, more familiarly Pancake Day, in many parts of the world that observe the season of Lent.

Originally intended as a way to cook up all the rich fatty things that were forbidden during the annual pre-Easter season of penance, making crêpes (or pancakes in the UK), was a way to use up these items in preparation for fasting from them. I really think that we in the U.S. need to adopt this holiday as well. When I lived in Europe, it also provided a great excuse to get together a group of friends for an enjoyable and delicious meal. [I did see that iHOP is having a day with this same name, but as it is a week out from today, that sort of defeats the point of the observance.]

I had tried to make Julia Child's recipe for these a while back, with mixed results, as I posted previously. For Christmas this year, my sister gave me another book of hers, by which she swears: The Way to Cook. I've been reading this, but haven't yet prepared anything from it. The two recipes one for sweet and one for regular crêpes seemed like a good way to dive right in.



Unlike my earlier attempt, this time things seemed to work out a bit better. I don't know if it was that I had more confidence in the method, or if the batter came together better or if maybe my technique is actually improving. The sweet batch seemed a bit thicker than the savory one, which was easier to work with. Maybe it was because the pan I was using to cook them it is seasoned a bit more, having been used a few times.


I think these came out looking pretty close to how professionally made ones appear. It is possible to buy them ready-made from a store, but I had a supreme sense of accomplishment in being able to create these for myself. My mother used to make them from scratch and rarely had a flop. She always said that the first one never really turns out well and then would go on to churn out one perfect example after another. I'm not quite there yet.

Another one of her tips was to make them in advance of needing to use them and to stack them on a plate, separated by waxed paper. Then, they can be covered in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator or sealed up with plastic wrap and then covered by aluminum foil and put in the freezer. They need to be brought up to room temperature and gently re-heated on each side before being filled and eaten.


Just to make sure that the end result would taste as good as it looked, I decided to have a "test sample" right as I pulled them out of the pan. The more traditional British way (and also the way that I ate them once late at night in France) is to sprinkle them with sugar and to drizzle lemon juice on them. Roll them up, and start munching away on a sweet-tart treat. They tasted pretty good to me.

For the official Pancake Day feast, I went a bit more traditional with the flavorings. One of my favorite combinations involves eggs and cheese (I used Comté.). For the third filling, I usually go with either mushrooms or ham. This time, I chose the latter as it was what I had in the fridge.


Of course, as it is the day before the fasting starts for Lent, having dessert didn't seem too terribly indulgent. Fortunately, I just happened to have a jar of Nutella in my cabinet, for emergencies, you understand. I sliced up some pears, very thinly, slathered some hazelnut-chocolate spread on a warm crêpe, and enjoyed some gooey, sweet wonderfulness. I think that this tradition should definitely be a keeper.

Buon appetito!

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