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Sunday, March 27, 2011

SNAP Cheese Crepes

with Asiago, Goat Cheese and Love from Georgetown:

I'm trying to make friends at work, and the fastest way to do that is to break down and buy a candy jar. Personality alone, no matter how sparkling, won't bring people to your frigid little corner of the second floor. This week I filled said jar with Tootsie rolls of wondrous variety. Who doesn't like Tootsie rolls? But, there is steep competition around the cubes - the man behind me brings cupcakes from his soon-to-be-retired-bake-aholic wife almost every day. Maybe my motivation for making friends is a little self-centered (e.g. I'm rushing to build bridges and secure a constant personal supply of cupcakes). Well, maybe. But I get lonely too.

Last weekend, to cure one such lonely spell, I met with two of my old roommates from undergraduate for a luncheon in Georgetown. After an hour of wandering, and one harrowing ride up the Metro escalator, we arrived at a sunny street corner and a sign that read "SNAP - Cutest Cafe in Georgetown". At first we were skeptical, we didn't seen anything particularly adorable in the general vicinity. But the orange cartoon fox had peaked our interest. Although, I may have been reminded of Dora the Explorer, we followed the arrow pointing down the side street. The menu, pea green walls and low-prices were visible through the open door - obviously, they typically cater to students who aren't willing to commit to an expensive menu. There were smoothies (of course), a few vegetarian plates, one or two carnivorous paninis, but the main fare was crepes.

The cafe itself was what you'd expect from a college town, even one like Georgetown: small, sparsely furnished, chalkboard menus subject to unexpected changes and a friendly, talkative staff of 2-4. Was it the cutest cafe around - probably not. The wobbly plastic table and chairs were quaint at best, and the narrow, cobblestone garden and rickety space heaters were just short of Spartan. But, I forgave every paper napkin and plastic basket when I spied this gem on the menu: Goat cheese and Asiago Crepe.

There are very few things that I have absolutely zero tolerance for, but goat cheese is one of them. If there is goat cheese in a twenty mile radius I'm going to find it, ask to eat it, and then talk about it for the next 24-48 hours. There is no way that isn't going to happen. In this case, I obsessed over these crepes all week and promised so profusely that I may have been ruthlessly made fun of if I didn't make them Sunday morning. The creamy goat cheese was a given, but the sharp, firm Asiago was so unexpected I couldn't get enough of it. Originally, I had seen it as a mere sidekick to the obvious hero of the dish - the goat cheese. But, every bite was laced with a little Asiago, a few thready chives and, in some cases, a bite or two of tomato. They all danced around in wild pagan homage to the goat cheese - quite beautifully. I may even be inclined to say that the Asiago stole the show a little bit in the second act.

The crepe itself, I think, was buckwheat because it was starchier and a little more firm in texture than the crepes I make at home. Whatever it was, it was bigger than my hand, dripping with cheese and only about $5. After that first bite, I knew I was going to have to make this crepe at home - I had to. The flavors were so clean, so unassuming, I knew I could recreate it. The only difficult part would be making the crepe itself, and we both know that isn't very difficult if you are in possession of a little butter and a non-stick skillet. Since I don't have my Julia Childs baking handbook at the moment - how dreadfully shameful of me, but I choose to fill the last quarter of my suitcase with extra pairs of underwear instead of a large and cumbersome cookbook - I went to Martha instead. My only beef with the recipe was that the amount of butter and oil they suggested for cooking the crepes was absurd. Using 2 tablespoons in the batter itself worked beautifully, and brushing the pan (non-stick) once with a little more melted butter was sufficient. My first crepe was a dud since it separated the oil and and butter and just seethed up at me from the pan. After that disastrous waste of batter, I could see absolutely no reason to dredge the pan with more butter and oil between crepes. I stopped short of the actual recipe, which is for a blintz, and therefor did not fry the filled crepes in butter afterwards. A shame? Maybe, but not really.

Notes: The first crepe is usually a flop; however, it is useful for gauging the temperature of your pan. I used a rather small 8" pan, so I ended up making a ton of crepes. Use a larger pan for a more substantial crepe - all the same rules apply. Ideally, your crepe is silky smooth and soft without any crispy edges. If these happen, certainly don't throw the crepe away, but you may want to turn the crepe sooner or turn down the heat, very slightly. Be sure to get a good and tangy goat cheese. The flavor profile of the crepe is really dependent on the quality of the cheese. With so few ingredients splurge on something really scrumptious. Plus, if you have leftover cheese you can toast up some bagels with a little Asiago, or mix in some goat cheese with your next platter of scrambled eggs. You can't go wrong.

Savory Crepe Base:
Variation of "Blueberry Blintzes" from MarthaStewart.com

3/4 cup milk, plus 2 tablespoons
2 eggs
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons melted butter

Inspired by Snap! of Georgetown's "Goat cheese and Asiago Crepe"

5 ounces crumbled Asiago cheese
6 ounces tangiest Goat cheese
scant 1/4 cup chives, finely diced
1 plum tomato seeded and diced, optional

**To our European Friends - you probably already have a great crepe recipe, but if you want this one I can make an attempt at a conversion soon.

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