'Glorious French' Crepes

The Early Show: Award-winning chef James Peterson demonstrates a few exquisite French dishes and talks about his new cookbook, 'Glorious French Food.' CBS/The Early Show

James Peterson is an award-winning cookbook author who hates to write down recipes.

But he has decided that educating people about the wonders of classic French is worth the hassle of transcribing his work into words.

The result is "Glorious French Food," his cookbook focusing on the classic techniques that made French cuisine famous. He visits The Early Show to show how to make his all-time favorite dessert, crepes.

Peterson says he believes his mission in life is to teach people about food and,in a broader sense, teach people about culture, ritual, and self-respect.

He has written several books: "Vegetable," "Fish," and "Shellfish," "Splendid Soups," and "Sauces" as well as "Essentials of Cooking" -- all based on classical French cuisine.

This latest book, "Glorious French Food," he admits, was met by reservation from his friends. He knows that people think that he's obsessed with French cuisine, but he loves the foods of France because he says they reflect the history and passion of the French people.

He remembers his time in France through the food and the wine. It is nostalgic for him, but it goes beyond that. He understands that Americans have only a limited knowledge of French food and techniques and he hopes to expand on that through this book.

The following are his recipes for crepes:

Basic Crepes

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted, for batter, plus about 1 tablespoon, softened, for the pans

Method:
  1. Combine the flour and the eggs in a mixing bowl and add just enough of the milk to allow you to work the mixture gently into a smooth paste with a whisk. Don't overwork the mixture, which would activate the gluten, and don't worry about a few lumps, because they will be strained out. Gently whisk in the rest of the milk. Strain the batter and then stir in the salt and melted butter. If the butter is added before straining, it congeals in the cold batter and gets strained out. If you have time, cover the batter and let it rest in a cool place or in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

  2. Put the pan over medium heat, when the butter foams and the foam begins to subside ever so slightly as in making an omelet, ladle in enough batter to just cover the surface of the pan with a thin layer. If you add too much, pour the excess out of the pan. After a couple of crepes, you'll be able to judge the right amount each time. If when you pour the excess out, none of the batter sticks to the pan, the pan isn't hot enough. If the batter sizzles as soon as it hits the pan, the pan is too hot.

  3. As soon as you add the batter, quickly lift the pan and gently rotate it and tilt it at different angles at the same time to coat it with the batter as quickly as possible. Put the pan on the stove for about 1 minute until the batter loses its sheen. Pinch each side of the crepe between your thumb and forefinger of both hands or use a small, wide metal spatula and lift the crepe entirely off the pan, turn it over onto the pan and cook it for about 45 seconds more. Don't try to flip crepes. It's impossible because they cling to the pan.


Peterson does not call his crepe with butter-orange sauce a crepe suzette because they are simpler and use less expensive ingredients. He is using orange-flavored liqueur instead of Grand Marnier.

Ingredients:
1 recipe basic crepes
1 tablespoon softened unsalted butter for the serving dish, plus 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, for the sauce
4 navel oranges
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2/2 cup cognac

Method:
  1. Fold the crepes in half with the more attractive side on the outside and fold again to form little wedges. Rub the softened butter on a heat-proof serving dish, such as an oval gratin dish, large enough to hold the folded crepes in a single layer with the crepes partially overlapping.

  2. Rinse off the oranges. With a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife, remove all the zest in strips from 2 of the oranges. Toss the zests into boiling water for 30 seconds, drain, rinse under cold water, and reserve. Squeeze the 4 oranges; you should end up with about 1 1/2 cups of juice. Combine the strained juice, zest strips, and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer over low heat and simmer gently until you're left with about 2/3 cup of orange-flavored sauce. Strain the syrup into a clean saucepan. If you like, you can make the syrup up to 1 week in advance and keep it in the refrigerator.

  3. Twenty minutes before you're ready to serve, preheat the oven to 325-degrees. Cover the dish of crepes with a sheet of aluminum foil and 10 minutes before you're ready to serve, slide into the oven. Bring the orange syrup to a simmer and whisk in the cognac and the 6 pieces of butter. When all the butter has melted into the syrup, taste the sauce. If it tastes too strongly of cognac, boil it for an additional 30 seconds. Spoon the hot sauce over the hot crepes in the serving dish.


Peterson has taught at The French Culinary Institute and Peter Kump's New York Cooking School (now called The Institute of Culinary Education).
  • Tatiana Morales

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