That Mother's Day is little more than a gussied-up mid-spring sales event—Sweeps Week for florists—needn't be argued at any great length. Still, buncha bullshit though it might be, the holiday nevertheless serves as an occasion to appreciate and celebrate one of the true and truly wonderful pillars of our civilization, by which of course we all implicitly understand that I am referring to the brunch reservation.
Well, no, OK—they get to appreciate and celebrate the brunch reservation. Those people, over there, with their clean shirts and well-kept calendars and their Oh, look at me, my parents aren't embarrassed to be seen in public with me, because I am not required as a condition of my parole to duct-tape my pants to my shirt at all times, aren't I fucking special: They get to appreciate brunch reservations, because they have them, because they are Keeping It Together, whereas you are Decidedly Not Doing That.
However (and whether or not she will admit it), you still have a mother to deal with—or a grandmother, or a sister who has children, or a wife or partner who regrettably birthed your kids—and no excuse tomorrow short of spontaneous human combustion is going to cut it for failing to give this poor woman one goddamn mid-morning meal in return for an entire lifetime of not having murdered you yet. Which is to say, you are going to cook brunch for the mother in your life, and she is going to close her eyes very tightly, cross herself, and venture to eat it. So you might as well make it tasty, and non-poisonous.
The very nice thing about brunch is that, since it is an imaginary thing that does not exist, you can decide for yourself what it ought to look and smell and taste like, just as you did with all of your childhood friends. Want yours to be especially breakfasty? That's fine: Poached eggs and English muffins and such make a perfectly credible brunch. Prefer a lunchlike extra meal before you nevertheless eat an actual lunch, you gross pig? Go for it: Quiche is a classic brunch food.
Or, hey, IDEA! Make stuffed crêpes, and satisfy your favorite mother's desire for more of an I-don't-know-what-the-hell-meal-this-is-supposed-to-be-mimicking-but-it-tastes-good kind of brunch. Now, this is the point in the internet food column at which we hear the sounds of a record scratching, glass breaking, and tires screeching in the distance. It's the circumflex (ˆ): You see it there above the "e" and your brain goes hey whoa what the fuck hoo boy would you look at the time I think I left the toaster running and strikes you blind and, before you know it, you are pirouetting wildly into an end table and destroying a lamp. Metaphorically or not. Hear me out.
The sweet crêpe, rather like brunch itself, is a hybrid con designed to make people feel good about stuffing themselves with food they'd otherwise have the self-restraint to avoid. That is to say, it is a pancake, goddammit, but a pancake presented in such a way—thin! sexy! French! circumflex!—that you go, Ooh, this some fancy health shit!, and then you load it up with similarly well-disguised "hazelnut" cake frosting and tell yourself that you're eating the Mediterranean Diet, just like that Marion Cotillard (probably) does (not). This makes it the perfect brunch food, especially when you make it even more ridiculous by stuffing it with what's essentially cannoli filling, as you are going to do today.
This is important because, if the mother in your life is like virtually all others in the Western Hemisphere, she spends every other day of her life being told that she is not doing enough to turn herself into a shrinkwrapped skeleton; today, you are going to indulge this poor woman with a brunch that will, perversely and falsely, seem only moderately indulgent. While also instantaneously giving her Type-2 diabetes. Which is what any meal ought to do. Look, let's just get started, OK?
To begin with, tonight, this evening, before you go to bed, make crêpe batter. This is incredibly easy; if you work fast, you can have it done in less than three minutes. Dump the following shit into your blender: a cup of regular all-purpose flour, a cup of milk, 2 eggs, a quarter-cup of sugar, 3 tablespoons of melted butter, a generous splash of vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Blend that stuff for a minute or so, pausing if you need to scrape down the sides of your blender to keep everything together in there. Pour the result into a bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and stick it in the refrigerator. That's it. Crêpe batter.
(A note, here: The above proportions, although not immediately insane-seeming, will yield a fucking lot of crêpes; depending on how big and thick you eventually make them, you will have either a comically large number of crêpes, or enough crêpes that there will be crêpes spilling out of the windows of your home and your neighbors will phone the police, which will only be comical for the rest of us. This will enable you to make enough crêpes for a large family gathering, or, y'know, like, being a vendor at the Super Bowl or solving world hunger or whatever.
If that's too many crêpes for you, the important thing to know is this: For each egg in your batter, you need a half-cup of flour and a half-cup of milk; as long as there's a 1:1:1 relationship between eggs and half-cups of flour and milk, you're OK. There's more math involved in downsizing the sugar and butter to a smaller quantity of crêpe batter, and I'm just not going to do that math because, frankly, I couldn't if I wanted to.)
(How 'bout a hand for the American educational system, folks!)
Now your batter is in the refrigerator and you are ready to go to bed. But first! Haul out another big bowl, and make sweet cheese filling. This, like the batter, is easy as hell to make and can be completed in just a few minutes.
The first thing to put in that bowl is a pound of cheese. Now, there are a couple of ways to go, here: You can use a half-pound each of ricotta and mascarpone, or, if you can't find mascarpone because mascarpone is a pain in the ass to find and you are a reasonable person with actual adult responsibilities that you would feel even worse about having neglected for your entire life if you then treated the finding of stupid Italian cream cheese like some goddamn quest for the Holy Grail, you can just use an entire pound of ricotta. Shit's gonna taste good either way; it'll be noticeably creamier and, OK, superior if you include the mascarpone, but there's no need to pretend it's crucially important.
To the cheese, add one half-cup of powdered sugar, another splash of vanilla extract, and the zest of two big lemons. Now, that's a lotta fuggin' zest, right there, but don't worry that your cheese filling is going to taste like Pine-Sol, or even that it's going to taste very much like lemon at all, because it's not. It's going to taste like sweet cheese, and it's going to be aided tremendously by a cool, unobtrusive, but unmistakable lemon accent. Look, just fucking do it, OK?
(Also, stick those de-zested lemons in some airtight plastic bags when you're done with them. They're still useful.)
If you happen to have some fresh mint lying around that you want to chop into very small pieces and add to the bowl, that'd be cool, too, but if you don't have it, don't sweat it. If you want to add some crunchy texture with some chopped dark chocolate or almonds, keep it in your pants, OK? We're already pushing the dessert boundary pretty hardcore, here.
Gently stir or fold that stuff together, then slap some plastic wrap on this bowl, too, and stick it in the refrigerator. Now, go to bed.
Morning! (Or, early afternoon, you grotesque sloth!) Put a small saucepot on the stove and make some syrupy fruit sauce-type stuff in it. A double-fistful of fresh or individually frozen raspberries, the zest and juice of an entire orange, the juice of one of those lemons you wisely bagged up last night, a third of a cup or so of sugar, a couple tablespoons of water, and a pinch of cornstarch. Now wait, you're thinking, reading those ingredients and not ever having learned to trust, this shit is gonna taste like Pine-Sol! (Seriously, what is it with you and the Pine-Sol?) No, this stuff is not going to taste like Pine-Sol; it is going to be very, very tart, but that's going to be a good thing, because the crêpes and their filling are going to be very, very sweet, and this stuff is going to balance that sweetness and mercilessly (but pleasurably!) stun-gun your palate into enjoying it.
Bring this stuff up to a simmer in your little pot, then leave it alone for a little bit. Eventually the berries will essentially dissolve in there and you'll have a syrupy, moderately lumpy sauce in front of you. At that point it's OK to move the little pot off the heat and ignore it altogether.
(Another note: Yes, this stuff is going to contain raspberry seeds. If you're the sort of lunatic who wants to press the shit through a cheesecloth to remove those seeds, go for it, but, c'mon: People have been eating whole raspberries by hand for friggin' centuries without mew-mewing about the seeds, oh no the seeds are gonna get me! Tell yourself they'll add some texture and character to the final product, and press onward.)
In the meantime, make crêpes! If you are some kind of weirdo and have a little 8-, 9-, or 10-inch crêpe pan, you can use that for this, but otherwise, any skillet you've got will work, as long as it's not so huge that you can't pick it up and slowly swirl it around without needing an entire piston-powered exoskeleton to do so. Set this skillet over low-medium heat on your stovetop and grease it very slightly by rubbing its cooking surface with the end of a stick of cold butter. Once the skillet is warmed up, scoop a couple tablespoons' worth of your crêpe batter into the middle of it.
Now. This next step is more annoying to explain than it is to follow. Lift the handle of the skillet so that the cooking surface is tilted away from you; see how the batter runs down toward the far end of the skillet? Rotate your wrist slowly so that the batter spreads over a wide area of the skillet's cooking surface, forming a wide, shallow, unbroken circle, or as close to it as you can manage without having a temper tantrum. See how it works? The small thick puddle of batter has now transformed into a wide, thin, flat sheet of batter. A crêpe! Let it cook for a minute or so, then gently slide a spatula under the edge (or, if your fingertips are callused like mine, just grab one edge of the crêpe), flip it over, and let it cook for another 20 seconds or so. If your heat is where it should be, this should be enough time for your crêpe to get cooked and mildly browned on both sides, but not enough time for it to turn into a giant friggin' wheat cracker. Get it out of there and set it on a paper towel.
Repeat. A lot. It gets awfully tedious. Make enough crêpes for each bruncher to eat three of them.
So now it's 2047 and your waiting guests have long since gone away and your home has become a dark and cobwebbed sanctuary for radioactive future-bats, but you have finished cooking your crêpes. Huzzah! It's time to (frisbee your skillet through the fucking window, but also to) fill your crêpes! Spread a heaping tablespoon or two of the cheese filling across one whole side of each crêpe, then gently roll the thing up like a taquito or a kid's idea of a cigar. Three per plate. Drizzle some of that syrupy sauce across each serving. If you want to put some powdered sugar in a flour sieve and pat it over the plate so that each serving gets an attractive dusting, that's kind of hilarious, because we all know you don't have a fucking flour sieve and never will. Serve your crêpes with fresh fruit, bacon—yes, bacon, damn your eyes!—and mimosas.
A wonderful thing happens when you take a bite of your stuffed crêpes: Although you certainly taste and enjoy the sweetness of all that sugar—and, holy shit, there's a lot of fucking sugar in there—and the bright tartness of the sauce you made, they also seem to neutralize each other just enough to make some room for you to taste the cheese, and vanilla, and the clean coolness of the lemon zest in the filling. If you really want to make your face rotate around your skull like the stripes on a barber pole, get a bite of the crêpe in your mouth at the same time as a bite of your bacon. Salty and smoky and sweet and tart and cheesy and whatever the hell vanilla is, and somehow a plate of food that contains all the sugar Cuba produced in the past half-century tastes not like a decadent dessert, but like something almost breakfasty. Like brunch.
Oh, fuck that, it tastes like fucking dessert. But, look. A mother you love likes it. You couldn't even give her brunch in a goddamn restaurant; can't you at least give her a goddamn break?
Happy Mother's Day.
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Albert Burneko is an eating enthusiast and father of two. His work can be found destroying everything of value in his crumbling home. Peevishly correct his foolishness at email@example.com. You can find lots more Foodspin at foodspin.deadspin.com.
Illustration by Jim Cooke.