Indulgent breakfasts are one thing. Indulgent alcohol doused brunches are another. And, forgive me for sounding like I’m channeling Jennifer Love Hewitt, homemade crepes and mimosas for breakfast is totally the most amazing and awesomest thing ever.
This meal was the best kind – somewhat impromptu, somewhat DIY, with just enough of a “forbidden” element to make it feel tantalizing and naughty.
It is not without irony that I’ve waited been lazy until after Easter in order to write this. My friend’s observance of Lent rendered the alcohol and the rich food a decadent treat. I have also been watching what I eat lately, exercising caution thought the week and then enjoying whatever I want on Sundays.
And, of course, the meal was “forbidden” because I obtained another cookbook in order to prepare it.
Seriously, it’s time to admit I have a little problem. I know people with more cookbooks, but I don’t have the shelving – I’ve long since graduated from milk crates but buying “real” bookcases sounds too much like Growing Up. And, I usually have a bunch strewn over the floor and on my red chair and my little end table behind the couches.
Anyway, I liked Michael Ruhlman’s new book, “Ratio.”
I like it because it’s one of those books that tries to change your thinking rather than simply listing ingredients alongside a brief paragraph of instructions. He illustrates how interconnected many groups of foods are, and demonstrates how, by simply tweaking the proportions of ingredients, it’s fairly easy to move from, say, crepes to pancakes or from creme brulee to quiche.
And I suppose in writing a cookbook like this, one could easily be tempted to get pedantic. You could insist there is really no difference between doughs other than quantities – and basically stop at that. But what Ruhlman so masterfully does is SHOW how these little differences matter in terms of preparation – like how reducing the fat from in going from brownie to cookie forces you also to start paying attention to gluten formation. Even though this book is about exploring new relationships among ingredients, you’re never forced to walk blindly into a recipe.
And in fact, I had this in mind as we did the crepes.
I liked the idea of a crepe bar, where we had a variety of “stuff” to choose from, both savory and sweet, I whipped up an otherwise forgettable crabmeat salad, seared a few slices of bacon and a hunk of Mexican chorizo from Findlay Market. I sliced up some strawberries, banana and mango, whipped up a quick creme Angliase, I also had some melted chocolate left over… the only thing really left to do was, you know, make the crepes.
Crepes are like pancakes, but with one important distinction: they are not leavened. In fact, the batter is almost always rested for an hour so that any bubbles remaining in the dough – formed by the whipping of the egg or air that’s been incorporated – will dissipate. What results a “bread” that is tender and rich to the taste, yet dense and firm enough to be rolled.
Ruhlman’s formula worked very well, here, 1 parts each milk and egg (which works out to four ounces of flour and two eggs), along with half a part of flour – a half a cup by weight. I added a big pinch of sugar and a small pinch of salt, along with a drizzle of vanilla extract. I combined these in a blender, let the batter rest for an hour while Lauren and I sipped mimosas and chatted, and then cooked the batter in a non-stick skillet.
Anyway, please forgive the long hiatus. I have much to tell you about!