I have two extraordinary, culinary–minded friends who always invite me over for impromptu meals of homemade ricotta and roasted tomato galettes, a tasting of new cheese purchases, or lemon–caper berry egg salad on freshly baked bread and citrus cornmeal cake topped with creme fraiche. (You get the idea. I'm a lucky friend.) I had to put a stop to all of their hospitality and extend some of my own, with a big pile of fresh crêpes and fruity toppings bien sur. After we shared yet another talkative, delightful meal, I realized this gathering-around- crêpes idea had legs. In fact, crêpes may be my new favorite canvas to express seasonal produce. Everyone can doctor his or her crêpe to her liking, making guests feel extra good at the table. And isn't that what entertaining is all about? I think so.
5 Tips for Hosting a Crepe Party
1. Keep crêpes warm in a low oven.
2. Keep toppings seasonal and fun.
Before your guests arrive, make your crepes in a well–seasoned/greased skillet (or better yet, crêpe pan!). Stack them on a baking sheet with strips of parchment paper in between each crepe. The oven should be set at 200-250°. The crêpes will keep in there without drying out too much for about two hours, give or take a crispy edge or two. The parchment makes it easy to move onto your second crêpe without the pancakes sticking together.
I served a myriad of syrups, jams, sauces, fruits, yogurts, nuts and treats to wrap up in our crêpes. Having plenty of choices makes the atmosphere whimsical and special. A favorite topping was a small bowl full of leftover chocolate ganache. Let me tell you that little spread of chocolate mixed with maple yogurt and a handful of strawberries was the most heavenly addition! Serving caramel sauce and sprinkles and other childhood favorites instantly puts smiles adult faces.
3. Go savory.
Skip all that I just suggested and go the opposite route. I'd love to recreate this same party but for an early summer supper and serve the crêpes alongside several artisan cheeses, fresh herbs, walnut and chili oil, homemade pesto and hard boiled eggs. Doesn't that make you hungry just thinking about it?
4. Prepare crêpe batter in advance.
Whether you are going the sweet or the savory route, I find crepe batter that has rested about eight hours to be more flavorful and easy to work with. I read this on a French food blog way back when and have subscribed to this make ahead step ever since. Plus, it breaks up your prep time, allowing you to focus on the crepes at the stove and all your delicious fillings come party.
5. Relax! crêpes smell fear.
I've found the more I 'forget' about the crêpe on the pan, the better they turn out. I mean I've stopped prodding and agitating my crêpes and they've gotten much better. So don't leave the room and start reading a book or anything, but a healthy three or four serene minutes at the stove for the first side is critical. The second flip will go much quicker, but air on the side of tender golden brown marks rather than pale blonde.
• Recipe: I used Jehnee Rains' Sweet Crêpe Recipe, a personal favorite of mine (it has beer in the batter!)
Related: Lunchtime crêpes: Using Leftovers
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)