Friday, June 4, 2010

Recipe: Crepe Suzette. Setting Stoves on Fire! (Carefully.)

In our cooking class last night we learned how to make Crepes Suzette. I acquitted myself with honor, but the man next to me did not pay attention and nearly lost his eyebrows. (For the love of heaven, when you're firing off alcohol, don't tip the pan toward you to see what is happening!)
            It was an interesting experience: half the class grasped the nature of the crepe instinctively and the other half just as firmly did not.  At one end of the stove, a sixteen year old coolly tossed golden crepes into the air. At the other end, my cooking partner crouched over the stove muttering "pour it, pour it, swirl it round the pan, more more more - Ooooh. (descending chord.)  That’s yucky.  You think the mixture's still too thick?"
            The mixture was too thick, and it stayed too thick, until we’d stirred in so much more liquid it seemed that we had a bowl of pure milk, with no egg or flour left in it.  But it poured and swirled properly, so we must have achieved a proper homeopathic dilution, full of tight molecular memories of gluten-and-protein.
            And if you boil your goopy rejects in a sufficiently alcoholic sauce for a sufficiently long time, it doesn't matter one jot or tittle what they were like when you started.  Best sort of bread-pudding you ever had – booze and oranges.  Mmmmm!

Crepes Suzette!

Serves  4 people, at 3 crepes/person. 
Note: Crepes can be made ahead of time and stored under glad wrap or wrapped in tinfoil till ready to be used.

Basic Crepe recipe (Saul doubles this because he knows these things):
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp castor sugar
1 cup milk
2 eggs.
Zest (and ONLY zest - no bitter white pith whatsoever, thank you!) of one orange
1/4 cup melted butter.
extra milk.
Drop first five ingredients into blender and process till completely smooth!   Scrape down the sides of the blender with a knife or flat-bladed spatula to clear out flour deposits, then with the blender running, add the melted butter in a thin stream.  Pour batter into bowl and allow to rest for half an hour at room temperature.  During this time the flour will swell and hydrate, thickening the batter.  Stir in more milk.  Good crepe batter should be less than the thickness of pouring cream - almost translucent.
To cook crepes:
Over medium-high heat, spray a cheap metal frying pan with aerosol cooking oil (NOT butter!)  Assume that your batter is too thick and add a little more milk.   
Pour 1/3 - 1/2 of a ladle of batter into the pan and swirl to coat the base.  You should have poured a thin, even coating - if the mix goops and runs in patches rather than pouring smoothly, it is probably too thick. In this case, add a little more milk.  
Cook the crepe until the very  edges are golden-brown and beginning to come away from the pan of their own accord.  Flip the crepe with spatula or your fingers, whatever works.  The bottom should be a pale gold - up to a light golden brown is okay.  Cook the other side for just under a minute, then drop the crepe onto a plate or cutting board and fold into quarters (this helps hide holes, irregular edges and gloppy bits.)  Do not re-grease the pan.  Continue till all crepe batter is used up.
Assume that your first time around, you will make lots of thick pancakes and really strange gloppy things until you get the hang of it.  When things aren't working, adjust the consistency of the batter and the temperature of the stove until it clicks!

Five oranges + zest of one orange
2 tablespoons castor sugar
100 g butter
1/2 cup cream
1 tablespoon cointreau
1 tablespoon brandy
Take the zested orange and section it:  With a paring knife, slice off all of the pith and skin membrane.  Cut the orange into membrane-less segments by slicing very gently between the membranes with a knife - allow the weight of the knife to guide the cut down into the orange flesh.  Remove all seeds.  Place segments onto a plate and set aside.  Eat the rest of the orange - it has lots of fiber and is good for you.
Juice 4 oranges and sieve the pulp.  Push the pulp against the sieve with a spoon to get as much juice as possible.  Add the zest to the juice.
Over a VERY high heat, add 2 tablespoons of castor sugar to a pan.  Toss in a dash of orange juice.  Toss the pan over the heat until it bubbles toffee-colored.  As soon as caramelization is complete, toss in a shot of brandy - and let it flambĂ©!  Toss in a shot of cointreau and let that flambee also!  (Shout Wheee!  And guard your eyebrows.) 
Note: Your window of time between caramelization and carbonization is SMALL - have all your ingredients at your elbow.  
The flambĂ©ing will deglaze the pan, so don't worry about the sticky toffee coating.  Add the rest of the orange juice.  If you find weirdly formed lumps of scorched toffee in your pan, do not worry -this is a GOOD thing, and will dissolve back into the sauce.
Reduce the liquid in the pan by half - until it is sticky and syrupy.  As it reduces, toss regularly to stop a skin from forming on the pan, and stir if necessary to break up toffee lumps.  Meanwhile - warm your serving plates.  (Warm plates for a warm dish!)  
Add  the butter.  Toss the pan to melt the butter (real chefs don't stir!)  Add the cream to stabilize the sauce and stop the butter separating out.
Drop 2-4 crepes into the sauce (note:  the starch from the crepes will also help stabilize the sauce).   

Add the orange segments.    

Cook over a low heat until your crepes are all yummy and saucy.  Add another drop of cointreau or grand marnier, so that the sauce is warmly alcoholic.  Place 2-3 crepes in the center of a plate and drop on a couple of cooked orange segments and a dash of extra sauce.  Add a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.  (preferably home-made from an  Anglaise base - see link for recipe.  If you intend to use Dairy Bell vanilla icecream, this whole recipe has been wasted on you.  Go away and order a Pizza.)  

Repeat with more crepes until you run out of crepes and  your dinner guests are lying on the floor in a happy stupor, belts loosened and blissful smiles on their glazed faces!

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