Pour. Swirl. Flip. Fold.
It’s enchanting to watch crepes being made. The batter forms a featherweight wrapper, a thin-yet-resilient French pancake that can wiggle like a sheet in the wind when lifted from a hot griddle. The preparation tease is part of the allure, but it’s the delicious taste of crepes that seals the deal.
Christian Murcia, chef-owner of Crepes Bonaparte food trucks and a creperie in Fullerton, understood their irresistibility when attending USC. He wrote the restaurant’s business plan as his final project in Entrepreneurial Studies. He knew guests would love to watch the prep and relish the finished crepe-wrapped delicacies whether sweet or savory. He says the appeal is 50 percent taste and 50 percent experience.
Since its humble beginnings as a crepe catering endeavor in 2008, the enterprise quickly grew to operating two Crepes Bonaparte food trucks in 2010, dubbed Gaston and Pierre. The trucks have been featured on Food Network’s Food Truck Race and Giada at Home, as well as named one of the Top 20 Food Trucks by QSR Magazine.
Along with his wife, Danielle, they opened their first brick-and-mortar location in March in the heart of Downtown Fullerton, the hometown they share. Signature menu items include the Crepes Caprese (roasted tomato, seasoned chicken, mozzarella, and garlic pesto), California Sunrise (avocado, crisp slices of bacon, roasted tomato, cheddar, and a fresh cracked egg), and the HazelBerryAna (fresh strawberries, sliced banana, and Nutella topped with whipped cream and a chocolate drizzle). Beverages include French beer and wine, as well as espresso drinks.
It was his take on Bananas Foster that I was eager to learn when we shot the video in my home kitchen. The video takes the guesswork out of the preparation. Have a look.
Inspiration: While in college he traveled to Europe a few times; the fascination with cooking was sparked by those experiences. He loved French crepes and their “street sort of feel.” His wife studied abroad and grew to love great food as well.
Family Cuisine: His father is from El Salvador and cooked many Latin American specialties during his childhood. Papusas, a traditional Salvadoran dish made of a thick corn tortilla stuffed with a savory filling, were a favorite, along with pasteles, tasty fried empanadas, and quesadillas. There were steaks and chickens grilled to perfection by his grandfather. He recalls that he was the official taster as they came off the barbeque.
Favorite Restaurant: He loves Lala’s Argentine Grill in West Hollywood for the Argentine-style meats grilled over an open flame. He says the chimichurri sauce is so good you could drink it.
USC baritone: He was accepted as a classical voice major but soon switched from classical to jazz. He was interested in going into the music business, but eventually decided that music would be a beloved hobby rather than a career.
Drink of Choice: Beer, plain and simple. Pilsner—a Stella or Corona.
Crepes Bananas Foster
Yield: One serving, plus several crepes, about 12
2 cups whole milk
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Nonstick cooking spray
1/2 banana, thinly sliced on diagonal
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese, whipped with a spoon
Sprinkle of cinnamon sugar
Drizzle of caramel sauce, can be store-bought
Garnish: whipped cream
Garnish: powdered sugar
- For crepe batter: Place milk, eggs, canola oil and flour in blender. Cover and blend at top speed 1 minute. If bits of flour adhere to sides of jar, dislodge with rubber spatula and blend 2-3 seconds more. Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours. The batter should be like a very light cream, just thick enough to coat back of wooden spoon. Crepes should be about 1/16-inch thick.
- Use a 6 1/2- to 7-inch nonstick skillet for small crepes, or a 10-inch nonstick skillet for large crepes. Spray skillet with nonstick spray. Place skillet on medium heat. Gently stir batter if ingredients have separated. When skillet is hot, ladle a scant 1/4 cup batter if using smaller skillet OR a scant 1/2 cup batter if using larger skillet. Quickly lift pan and tilt in all directions to spread batter over bottom of skillet. Pour any batter that does not adhere to pan out of skillet.
- Return to heat 1 minute to 1 minute 20 seconds. Jerk and toss pan sharply back and forth and up and down to loosen crepe. Or loosen around edges with spatula. Flip loosened crepe quickly with spatula. Cook about 30 seconds and remove crepe (it should easily slide out). Repeat cooking process with remaining batter, spraying each time with a little nonstick spray.
- Place 1 crepe in center of plate. Fold 1/3 of crepe over the top. Top with generous scoop of mascarpone. Top with banana slices. Dust with cinnamon sugar. Drizzle caramel on top. Fold over sides on right and left to make a triangle. Top with whipped cream and caramel. Dust with powdered sugar.
Crepes Bonaparte is in Downtown Fullerton at 115 South Harbor Boulevard, Suite A. www.crepesbonaparte.com
Photo and video credit: Curt Norris
Cathy Thomas is an award-winning food writer and has authored three cookbooks: “50 Best Plants on the Planet,” “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce,” and “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce.”