As Mother's Day approaches, I find myself revisiting some of my favorite memories as a mother.
I'll never forget the time Gio and Tony made me breakfast in bed for my birthday. Gio had talked about it for months, planning an ambitious menu featuring an omelette, French Peasant toast served with my favorite French jam, sugar-topped French breakfast muffins, fresh fruit and French crepes. I figured I'd be lucky to have even one of those specialties, but he made all of them for me last November, assisted — and only assisted — by his dad.
You should have heard the sounds coming from our kitchen that morning: pots and pans clanging, cupboards banging and commands being shouted from one to another. And then silence — long moments of silence where they must have been hard at work, with their heads down and hearts full of purpose.
I have never felt more loved or special than I did that morning. Everything tasted wonderful, but the crepes were really the standout. I didn't even know I liked crepes before that day, but Gio did.
Crepes are a type of very thin pancake that originated in Brittany and are now popular throughout all of France. Crepes can be made either sweet or savory, and served plain or with a filling. The sweet crepes that Gio made for me were served with only a dusting of powdered sugar and fresh berries, simple and delicious.
There are special pans just for making crepes, but Gio and Tony just used a regular, nonstick frying pan, and the crepes still turned out great.When making crepes, there are a few points to keep in mind in order to ensure success.
First, the batter must be allowed to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or even overnight, before using. This step helps the gluten to relax and helps any air bubbles work their way out of the batter, creating the delicate texture that is the signature of a good crepe.
Next, the pan must be greased before each crepe is poured, which prevents it from sticking and gives the crepe its lovely golden-brown color. For convenience, Gio brushed the pan with melted butter. Solid butter or vegetable oil would also work.
Gio used a 2-ounce ladle to pour his crepes, which filled our medium-sized pan perfectly. It's a good idea to use a liquid measuring cup to gauge how much batter you will need for each crepe, so start with a ¼ to 1/3 cup and take note of how much batter is needed, then use that measurement for the rest of the crepes.
Crepes cook quickly, and it doesn't take long to make a large batch. Cook each crepe over medium heat for about 45 to 60 seconds on one side, then use a large spatula to gently flip the crepe over and continue cooking for about 30 seconds. Adjust the heat up or down depending on whether the crepe browns too quickly or isn't cooking fast enough.
Once the crepe is finished, transfer it to a plate lined with wax or parchment paper (to prevent it from sticking) and prepare the next crepe, placing a piece of wax or parchment paper between each layer. Serve immediately, or cover the crepes with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to one week before using.
Crepes can be served chilled or reheated either in the microwave, oven or even quickly in a frying pan.
Gio and Tony deserve mad props for the incredible feast they prepared for me, which was abundant and delicious. But it was their joy and love that satisfied this mother's appetite, filling my life with the warmth of cherished memories. Happy Mother's Day!
Makes: about 12 crepes
1½ cups milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
Additional melted butter for greasing pan
Put all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Scrape down the sides with a spatula and briefly blend again. Cover and place blender in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or even overnight.
Remove batter from refrigerator and blend again before using. Place a frying pan over medium heat and use a brush to coat the pan with melted butter. Use a liquid measuring cup and fill to 1/3 cup with batter, then pour batter into pan, tilting left and right to spread the batter, and stop as soon as it reaches the edges. Take note of how much batter is needed to fill pan and use that measurement for remaining crepes.
Cook crepe on one side for 45 to 60 seconds, using a spatula to check for doneness. When golden brown, but not dark, quickly flip crepe over and continue cooking for about 30 seconds. Grasp the pan securely and swiftly flip the cooked crepe onto a large plate lined with wax or parchment paper.
Brush the pan with melted butter before making each crepe, and stack the cooked crepes on top of each other with a layer of wax or parchment paper between.
Serve immediately with powdered sugar and fresh berries, or cover stack with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to one week. Crepes may be served chilled or warm; reheat in microwave, oven or in a frying pan.
Recipe lightly adapted from the children's cookbook "What's Cooking? A Cookbook for Kids."
"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 11-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at dine//thelostitalian.areavoices.com.