“I can make better crepes than Minado.”
“Really Katie? You can make better crepes than the restaurant? Have you ever made crepes before?”
“No, but I know I can.”
One of the best skills I picked up from starting my career in consulting is the innate belief that I can do anything I put my mind to. It seems that my young niece didn’t need to accumulate thousands of frequent flyer miles and hotel points to get the same level of self-confidence.
Once Katie decided that she can make amazing crepes, I wanted to make sure that she had the skills to back up that claim. There’s nothing worse than the
boy who cried “wolf” girl who cried “crepe.” I recruit Katie as my sous chef for an evening, and tell her mom and dad to take the night off of kitchen duty.
Katie grabs her mini-me apron and pulls up her stool to reach the stove. I show her how to tie the the loop around the front of her waist so that she could hang the hand towel off to her side like a real chef. (As a bonus, I have an extra hand towel that could walk to me when I need it!)
We use my favorite De Buyer blue steel crepe pan and a wooden crepe spatula to make savory and sweet crepes. First up…the filling. Katie cooks the mushrooms and the spinach separately, making sure to keep the heat high enough to evaporate all of the liquid. I tell her that I completely trust her judgement with the seasoning; I wasn’t going to taste them at all while we are cooking.
Training my little sous chef is like developing high performing teams. Set the bar high and show your trust. And my trust is well placed–Katie is spot on with the salt and pepper. She whips up ham, spinach, mushroom and cheese crepes…well, what is left of the cheese at least. She loves the Dubliner Sweet Cheddar Cheese that Kerrygold gave me so much that she keeps nibbling on it while we are cooking…one of the perks of being the chef!
When the last crepe is served up, the whole family gathers around the table to dig in. Amidst head nods and murmurs of “mmmmmmmm,” everyone gobbles up the golden, buttery rolls of ooey, gooey goodness. But the best compliment of all is when her younger brother Matt loudly exclaims “Yummy!” Yup, that about sums it up!
Now that Katie is a pro at cooking crepes, it’a time to move on to Plating 101. I show her how to top the Mango Cream crepes with a fluffy swirl of whipped cream and two artfully placed sweet mango slices. When her dad orders a Banana Nutella crepe, Katie proceeds to top it with a swirl of whipped cream and two banana slices without any prompting from me. I couldn’t have been more proud. My little sous chef is a fast learner! I decide it’s time to introduce an advanced technique: the chocolate sauce swoosh. It’s never too early to learn how to swoosh.
The next day, I join my sister to visit Katie’s fourth grade class. All of the students published poetry books and their first non-fiction books. Parents were invited to come to their publication event to read the books and add their comments to each student’s “compliment booklet.” Katie beams when she sees us walk in and takes us around. She hands me a book made by her friend Jinsung, pointing to one poem and saying solemnly that “it’s so meaningful and…poetic.” She then excitedly introduces me to Ms. M and brings me over to the school bulletin board to read her essay.
I must say, seeing an essay about my Mac & Cheese on that school bulletin board is better than reading a rave review of my food in the NY Times (not that the latter has happened yet). I mean, my Mac & Cheese is the definition of deliciousness for a picky fourth grader. That’s like getting three Michelin stars, and it seems the King would agree.
Back in the kitchen, I fold together lemon curd and mascarpone for a Lemon Mascarpone Semifreddo. Katie asks “Is it good?”
“I don’t know, I never made it before…but have I ever made anything bad?” I asked in return.
The corners of her mouth curl up into a toothy smile. “Auntie Hazel…and you can quote me on this…I have the utmost confidence that everything you make tastes good.”
Gee, my little sous chef sure is a fast learner. After just one day of training, she already turned the tables and is using my own management techniques on me!
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar (optional for sweet crepes)
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup flour
Butter for the pan
Whisk together eggs, salt, sugar (if using) and milk. Sift the flour into a separate bowl. Add the egg mixture to the flour and whisk to combine. Strain the crepe batter to remove any lumps. Chill the batter in the refrigerator for one hour up to overnight.
Heat up the crepe pan on low heat. Add a pat of butter, then wipe off the butter with a paper towel making sure to coat the whole pan.
Use a two-ounce ladle to pour the batter into the pan, swirling the pan as you pour to completely cover the pan with the batter. Cook the crepe on low until the bottom of the crepe is golden brown and no longer sticks to the pan, 1 – 2 minutes.
Flip the crepe and cook the other side until it no longer looks wet, 1 – 2 minutes. Add fillings while the crepe is in the pan for savory crepes, then fold into thirds.
If you are making sweet cold crepes, remove the crepe from the pan. Let the crepe cool then fill.
When filling the crepe, place the side that is an even golden brown facing down. That is the side that was first cooked. That way, when the fold the crepe the prettier side is on the outside.