On my very first trip to Paris so long ago, my tour group and I were standing in front of the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame and our guide pointed out a polished brass circle about 20 yards from the cathedral’s main entrance. While he informed us that this spot marks kilomètre zéro, the spot from which all distances to and from the city are officially measured, he also told us that if we were to step on the circle, it would guarantee our return to the City of Lights. Not one to thumb my nose at superstition, I happily pounced on the seal, and make a point to do so every time I visit. Having been to Paris more than a handful of times, I have to trust that the guy knew what he was talking about.
One of the reasons that I always make it to that brass circle is that, directly adjacent to the cathedral is my very favorite crepe stand. I know it’s weird that I have a particular crepe stand that I frequent on my trips to Paris, but I do. Just like I have a German chicken sandwich lady when I go to London (that’s another story for another day). There’s really nothing, at first sight, that makes this crepe stand remarkable from the rest. Moseying leisurely through the narrow streets of the city, you’ll find that crepe stands in Paris are as plentiful as the chocolate shops in Belgium or, sadly, Starbucks here in Chicago. However, after discovering it in 2005 and subsequent trial and error at other venues, my travel posse of Tomato, Andouille, Yam and I have unanimously determined that THIS stand in particular makes the best crepes. Whether we travel together or apart, I know it’s always a stop on each one of our lists. Our favorite from there is savory crepe- stuffed with chicken, broccoli, tomatoes and cheese, crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside. It’s the perfect leisurely lunch to enjoy whilst people watching on the Île de la Cité, taking in the sights, sounds and fragrant smells of the city.
Me and Tomato, waiting for our crepes in 2007
Almost every country has their own version of a crepe. I grew up eating the Hungarian version, palascinta, for breakfast, sweetened with honey or stuffed with cottage cheese. However, it was in France’s Brittany region where the tools and techniques were perfected, creating a food that has since been popularized around the globe. Served sweet or savory, it’s the perfect example of how something so simple can be the canvas for something so glorious. It’s that reason that I picked crepes to make for breakfast this week. A Hungarian favorite with a French flair, I filled mine with nutella. While it seems like it should just be dessert or a snack, it’s perfectly acceptable to eat nutella for breakfast in France. And so I shall.
Whisk the flour and sugar in a medium bowl. In a measuring cup, whisk together the milk, egg, vanilla and butter. Slowly whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture until smooth.
In a heavy small saute pan or crepe pan, lightly brush the pan with a layer of melted butter and heat over medium-high heat. Working quickly, pour in about 1/4 cup of batter and tilt the pan to coat.**
Cook for 1 or 2 minutes and then flip with a thin metal spatula to finish cooking the other side, another minute. Repeat with remaining batter.
To assemble, fold the crepe in half. Spread that half with whatever filling you desire, and then fold into thirds. Eat. Enjoy. Repeat.
The Hungary Buddha Eats the World http://thehungarybuddha.com/
**I stole an electric skillet from my mom, so I use that. In order to make crepes on it, I bought a crepe spreader. To some degree this is an extraneous kitchen gadget, but its purchase was justifiable for purposes of making crepes. A saute pan works perfectly fine and would probably make prettier, more uniform crepes, in my opinion**
A nod to the discoverers of the crepe stand: Andouille, me, Tomato and Yam