We have a friend who is French, and when our daughters play together, one of their favorite and most special snacks is crepes with Nutella spread. The girls come home from an afternoon of play smelling sweetly of chocolate and warm crepes, and usually with a little chocolate lingering on the corner of their lips.

That, combined with the yearly tradition my family has of devouring crepes eggs Benedict every Christmas morning, got my mind meandering over other delicious crepe combinations. They are quite endless, and while crepes are a throwback to a different decade, I think it’s far enough behind us to qualify them as retro.

In any event, they are delicious, easy and really wonderful for either a brunch or dinner with family or guests. It’s even possible to think of a crepe party as you might a pizza party, with lots of fillings and everyone creating their own versions.

No matter how you plan to enjoy them, there are a few tricks. The first is to warm the plates, as the crepes can cool quite quickly. The second is to not overfill them. Go easy on what’s in the center — more is not better in this case.

Third, I’ve created these recipes with two crepes per serving for the main course and one per serving for the dessert ones. Change accordingly if you wish.

Fourth, eggs have always featured prominently in my versions of crepes simply because my family tends to have them for breakfast or brunch. They do add another element of juggling to the meal, so feel free to adjust and add or subtract poached eggs to your taste.

If you choose to poach the eggs, most poachers will cook four eggs at a time. You can remove them from the poacher and hold them in a bath of warm water while you cook the second batch. Be sure to use a slotted spoon to remove them from the water when you are ready, then blot them on a towel to wick away the moisture before placing on the crepes.

For those who are interested, I’ve posted the crepes eggs Benedict recipe on my blog (www.athomeatsea.com), as I’ve previously included it here in this column.

ASPARAGUS, PROSCIUTTO AND GOAT CHEESE CREPES

1 bunch asparagus, ends removed

1/4 teaspoon salt

Several grinds of black pepper

8 slices prosciutto

8 eggs

8 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled

Hollandaise sauce

Steam the asparagus in a large skillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay the prosciutto over the hot asparagus to warm. Meanwhile, poach eggs in a poaching skillet, removing the first batch to a warm-water bath while the second batch cooks. Layer each crepe with prosciutto, 3 to 4 spears of asparagus, goat cheese and 1 egg. Roll gently and flip so the seam is on the bottom. Top with hollandaise sauce and serve.

Serves 4.

CRAB AND AVOCADO CREPES WITH CHIPOTLE CHILI HOLLANDAISE

1 avocado, seeded, peeled and sliced

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon butter

8 ounces crab meat, about 1 cup

8 eggs

8 crepes

Chipotle hollandaise sauce

Warm the crab meat by sauteing very quickly in a little butter. Meanwhile, poach eggs in a poaching skillet, removing the first batch to a warm-water bath while the second batch cooks. While the eggs are cooking, place two slices of avocado on each crepe and sprinkle with salt. Add a little crab meat and then an egg and roll the crepe gently, flipping so the seam is on the bottom. Repeat with all crepes. Top with chipotle hollandaise and serve.

Serves 4; 2 crepes per person.

CAULIFLOWER, RED ONION AND COMTE

2 cups red onion, sliced

1 head cauliflower, sliced 1/4-inch

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

Several grounds of fresh white pepper

2 ounces spinach, about 2 cups lightly packed

4 ounces comte cheese, grated

8 crepes

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and add red onion. Salt with half the salt and some pepper and saute for 6 to 9 minutes, or until the onions are soft and beginning to brown. Remove onions from the pan to a small bowl and add the cauliflower to the pan. Same treatment with the salt and pepper. Saute until the cauliflower becomes soft and begins to brown.

To assemble the crepes, place a small row of onions in the center of one crepe. Top the row with comte, cauliflower and then spinach. Take one side of the crepe up to partially cover the row and then continue with the motion to create a roll with the onions on top and the seams of the crepe on the bottom. Repeat with all 8 crepes.

Serves 4; 2 crepes per person.

BLUEBERRY AND FRANGELICO CREPES WITH TOASTED HAZELNUTS

If you don’t want any leftover sauce, you may want to cut this recipe in half. Reduce the cooking time to 10 minutes. I found that it went pretty quickly as a topping for ice cream on a Friday night.

3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

11/2 tablespoons Frangelico

1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan, combine blueberries, sugar, lemon and lemon zest. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat until sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add Frangelico.

In a small bowl, whip the cream, sugar and vanilla to soft peaks.

Divide the filling evenly between 4 crepes and roll crepes gently, flipping so the seam is on the bottom. Top with the cream and hazelnuts.

Serves 4 with leftover sauce for another dish or with vanilla ice cream.

RICOTTA AND CREME DE COCOA CREPES

2 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 teaspoon creme de cocoa

1/4 cup shaved semi-sweet chocolate

Mash the cream cheese with a fork in a small bowl to make sure it is creamy. Add the ricotta, sugar and creme de cocoa. Chill until ready to serve. Place 1/4 of the mixture in the center of a crepe, roll gently and flip so the seam is on the bottom. Top with shaved chocolate and serve.

Serves 4.

CREPES

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water

11/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon salt

Butter for the pan

Mix the crepe ingredients at high speed in a blender or food processor for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and blend at least 30 seconds longer. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat a small, nonstick saute pan over medium heat for 3 minutes. When it’s hot, melt 1 teaspoon of butter and ladle 1/4 cup crepe batter into the pan. Tilt the pan to coat the bottom, and when you can see bubbles have formed, flip it. Place the finished crepes on a plate in a warm oven.

(Don’t worry if the first crepe is a loss — it usually is — the next ones will be fine. You shouldn’t need butter after the first crepe.)

Makes enough crepes to serve 4, plus extra just in case.

HOLLANDAISE

This is my mom’s recipe for hollandaise, and it works. Mom’s hollandaise is a bit more foolproof than the traditional method — easier on the arms as well. I often just use a whisk to combine all the ingredients over a double boiler — the hollandaise ends up fluffier, but it’s a bit trickier to do.

4 egg yolks

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

For chipotle hollandaise, add 1/2 to 1 chipotle en adobo

Put the egg yolks, salt, mustard and lemon juice in a blender. Cover and blend. Heat the butter until it is hot. Pour the butter into the running blender in a steady stream. Keep the hollandaise warm over a hot-water bath until you are ready to serve.

 

Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of “At Home, At Sea,” a recipe book about her experiences cooking aboard the family’s windjammer. She can be reached at:

[email protected]