Season 2 of Downton Abbey, currently running on Masterpiece Classic broadcast at PBS, has served up some pretty heavy fare for those of us who were perfectly happy to nibble on light dishes of budding love, fox hunts and garden parties in pre war times. Season 2 has brought us heavy courses of World War 1, convalescing officers, death, dangerous liasions, and the evil Mrs. Bates. Thankfully, there have been a few lighter moments, an amuse-bouche, or salad course, to help aid digestion. With Valentine’s Day coming up next week, I thought we would enjoy the recap of the crêpe. The ultimate star is Isis, Lord Grantham’s dog.
Ethel, the starry eyed new maid replaced Gwen, who left Downton for a dream job as a typsit at the phone company (“one day there will be a phone in every home”). Ethel had her own dreams of becoming a movie star, and the war ending with all classes living together in harmony. These comments wound the curls even tighter on O’Brien’s head, inspiring some creative pranks: humiliation in front of the Crawleys, and late night electric outlet checks for vapours.
Don’t Mess with the Chef
Enter Mrs. Patmore, just minding her own business, pre-occupied with preparing the upstairs dinner menu. Daisy starts looking for the exits when Ethel unintentially provokes the “General of the Kitchen”, and we are set up for our “fun with food” gag of the episode as Pharoah is fed the left over crepes.
Valentine’s Day Dessert Idea: The Simple Crêpe
Now I would not encourage you to feed your dog leftovers from the table, but sometimes you take inspiration where you find it. A famous french dessert, crêpe suzette is a simple dish which could add a touch of flash and elegance to your upcoming Valentine’s meal. Think large thin pancake in a sauce of caramelized sugar and butter, orange juice and zest, topped with flaming orange flavoured liqueur, such as Grand Marnier, Cointreau.
While everyone agrees that the “Suzette” was created in France in the late 1800s, the exact orgin is unclear. Was it named after Princess Suzanne (daughter of Edward, Prince of Wales, son of Queen Victoria) by accident? Or was it a creation to draw a crowd, inspired by french stage actress Suzette (Suzanne Reichenberg) whose character served crêpes on stage. Either way, it is a special sweet treat and can be made in under half an hour.
You can prepare crepes in advance and finish the sauce when it is show time. Foodies will likely have their own crepe pans, but don’t be intimidated if you don’t have one. My purpose here is to help you “give it a go”.
There are many recipes you can follow, but I did enjoy this one posted by Delia Smith on the BBC food website to give a Mrs. Patmore spin (a wodge?) on the french favorite, complete with the European measurements (the conversions are in the Handy converter button in the top menu).
The recipe is simple and instructions are detailed to help you along. Get inspired and create your own, just be careful playing with fire!
classic Crêpe Suzette
- For the crêpes
- 110g/4oz plain flour, sifted
- pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- 200ml/7fl oz milk mixed with 75ml/3fl oz water
- 50g/2oz butter
- 1 medium orange, grated zest only
- 1 tbsp caster (fine) sugar
- For the sauce
- 150ml/5fl oz orange juice (from 3-4 medium oranges)
- 1 medium orange, grated zest only
- 1 small lemon, grated rind and juice
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- 3 tbsp Grand Marnier, Cointreau or brandy
- 50g/2oz unsalted butter
- a little extra Grand Marnier, for flaming
-to make the pancakes
- Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl with a sieve held high above the bowl so the flour gets an airing.
- Now make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it.
- Then begin whisking the eggs – any sort of whisk or even a fork will do – incorporating any bits of flour from around the edge of the bowl as you do so.
- Next gradually add small quantities of the milk and water mixture, still whisking (don’t worry about any lumps as they will eventually disappear as you whisk). When all the liquid has been added, use a rubber spatula to scrape any elusive bits of flour from around the edge into the centre, then whisk once more until the batter is smooth, with the consistency of thin cream.
- Now melt the 50g/2oz of butter in a large pan. Spoon 2 tbsp of it into the batter and whisk it in, then pour the rest into a bowl and use it to lubricate the pan, using a wodge of kitchen paper to smear it round before you make each pancake. Stir the orange zest and caster sugar into the batter.
- Now get the pan really hot, then turn the heat down to medium and, to start with, do a test pancake to see if you’re using the correct amount of batter. These little crêpes should be thinner than the basic pancakes, so when you’re making them, use ½ tbsp of batter at a time in a 18cm/7in pan.
- It’s also helpful if you spoon the batter into a ladle so it can be poured into the hot pan in one go. As soon as the batter hits the hot pan, tip it around from side to side to get the base evenly coated with batter. It should take only half a minute or so to cook; you can lift the edge with a palette knife to see if it’s tinged gold as it should be.
- Flip the pancake over with a pan slice or palette knife – the other side will need a few seconds only – then simply slide it out of the pan onto a plate. If the pancakes look a little bit ragged in the pan, no matter because they are going to be folded anyway. You should end up with 15-16 crêpes.
- Stack the pancakes as you make them between sheets of greaseproof paper on a plate fitted over simmering water, to keep them warm while you make the rest.
– The Sauce
- Mix all the ingredients – with the exception of the butter – in a bowl.
- At the same time warm the plates on which the crêpes are going to be served.
- Now melt the butter in the frying pan, pour in the sauce and allow it to heat very gently.
- Then place the first crêpes in the pan and give it time to warm through before folding it in half and then in half again to make a triangular shape.
- Slide this onto the very edge of the pan, tilt the pan slightly so the sauce runs back into the centre, then add the next crêpe. Continue like this until they’re all re-heated, folded and well soaked with the sauce.
- You can flame them at this point if you like. Heat a metal ladle by holding it over a gas flame or by resting it on the edge of a hotplate, then, away from the heat, pour a little liqueur or brandy into it, return it to the heat to warm the spirit, then set light to it. Carry the flaming ladle to the table over the pan and pour the flames over the crêpes before serving on the warmed plates.