Having just returned from an amazing sailing vacation to Greece with Captain Woody’s Adventure Voyaging which I highly recommend, even if the extent of your sailing knowledge is watching Mr. Rubber Ducky circumnavigate the tub, I thought I would share a galley story. Upon booking the trip, I intended to volunteer for as much cooking as possible as it is both a hobby and a passion of mine. As insurance, I convinced my cousin Mike (a chef by profession, half crazed from the long northern Michigan winters and desperate for an escape) to accompany me on my adventure. I felt confident that despite never having cooked on a sailboat before, between the two of us, we could satisfy and hopefully impress our assigned shipmates. To this end, I gave much thought to potential meals over the weeks leading up to the trip. I focused mainly on breakfast and lunch as most dinners would likely be enjoyed ashore. For breakfasts, I thought eggs and sausage, French toast and crepes would work. I have always enjoyed crepes and for some reason thought of them as a special treat, apparently many people share this thought. I also wished to bake bread for sandwiches, toast, croutons, etc. Lunch and dinner, I decided, I would play by ear.
I met our captain, Randy, the day before departure at breakfast in the hotel. He seemed thrilled when I explained that I wished to cook and Mike would be willing to help me (apparently, galley slave is not a highly coveted position). Breaking the rules, I interrupted Captain Randy as he was inventorying our craft and he directed me to Adam, who was inventorying the galley and cabins. Adam gave me a brief on the basic staples included with the charter and the race began! I waylaid Mike, shanghaied a luggage cart and hiked the ¾ mile to the nearest grocery store, crossing a busy, six lane Grecian road rife with European micro cars driven at speeds bordering on supersonic. We shocked and alarmed the sedate store clerks by bursting through the doors ten minutes before closing time wild-eyed and bearing a luggage cart with smoking tires. A whirlwind trip through the small store rewarded us with a large amount of beer and a small amount of groceries. Due to time constraints and language barriers, we were unable to locate flour or yeast, so dreams of bread making met their fate, but we did manage to find a packaged crepe mix and a number of other gems. I will not recount the terrifying journey back across the Grecian autobahn, dodging maniacal mini’s and sadistic smart cars while constantly grabbing precariously perched purchases that attempted escape in the bedlam as my doctor claims I have contracted PTSD from the event and should try not to think about it much. Suffice it to say that thanks to a last minute daring rescue by fellow cruisers, Mike and I survived with only the death of a jar of Florentine sauce to haunt our consciences.
Back at the boat, the crew performed nautical CPR on us, pouring copious quantities of Mythos beer into us until the wildness left our eyes and our breathing returned to normal, we stowed the supplies, made an utterly failed attempt at obtaining dinner and drinks at the marina restaurant which offset achieving the “Worst service ever, ever, ever award” by not charging us for our one drink each, scant compensation for an hour and a half waiting to order, an hour waiting for the four meals they claimed were all they had and the arrival of cold food, but “life, lemons and squeezing” or however it goes.
So, after an exhaustive explanation of provisioning and why we failed to obtain the scratch ingredients for crepes, we shall skip over some amazing sailing, breathtaking scenery and a modest amount of tomfoolery and skylarking to arrive at the much anticipated Crepe Day! Following a positively glorious sunrise, a departure unsullied by what I shall refer to as the Med Mooring Anchor Rodeo Roundup (of which our crew remained chaste and virginal throughout the cruise thanks to the inestimable skill of Captain Randy) and the gift of nearly mirror calm seas, our intrepid galley slaves indulged themselves by crafting crepes.
Upon Mike fell the tedious task of crepe creation, while I enjoyed the much simpler task of producing the filling. We had decided on sweet crepes, as opposed to savory, so I mixed up a container of cream cheese with about three tablespoons of sugar. By the time I had whipped it into a softer, manageable consistency, Mike had produced the first crepe (which consequently turned out to be almost pancake thick and nearly unworkable) which I filled with sweetened cream cheese and raspberry jam (good Greek stuff with Raspberries and pectin, no high fructose corn syrup and where you don’t have to ask things like “What is Dimethylglycogine and who on Earth would ever think of adding it to food!?”) rolled up and placed on a plate with an artistic swizzle of caramel sauce (another Greek wonder, a sauce like what you find on Flan, caramelized sugar, not like caramel ice cream topping). I then topped the crepe with sliced bananas and attempted to pipe some more cream cheese decoratively on top using a piece of cling wrap with a small slice in it. This worked precisely once, then the slice expanded into a rip which opened into a tear making my neat little dollops of cream cheese bigger and bigger each crepe ending with cream cheese coating me from neck to elbow and a hazmat team being called for cleanup. Trust me, have a baggie handy if you try this at home. In a last ditch effort to add the “warm fuzzy” effect to the plate, I asked Mike to slice up one of the amazingly delicious oranges we were provisioned with (it is absolutely amazing how sweet and delicious fruit is when it is allowed to ripen on the tree, not picked green and ripened in a warehouse somewhere) and performed a simple citrus twist and viola! We then set this monstrously thick prototype aside, made some properly thin crepes and presented them humbly on one knee to the captain and crew to tumultuous applause! Honestly, it may not have been tumultuous, but they did applaud!
Crepes are versatile. I like cream cheese, but it isn’t essential. You can use jam or fresh fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi, banana, star fruit, etc.), you can use nutella or peanut butter, you can sauté bananas in butter and brown sugar, you can use chicken, spinach, sautéed mushrooms, onions, swiss cheese and rich hollandaise sauce. Many probably already know this, but some preps in advance (the night before or even days in advance) can really help make crepe production smoother, especially if you have no crazy cooking cousin to assist. You can mix the cream cheese and sugar or slice up fresh fruit (except bananas, which would turn brown), you can make fresh whipped cream, you can even cook the crepes, separate with wax paper and refrigerate then reheat in a pan just prior to serving. If making savory crepes, you can chop up your spinach, shred your cheese, cook your chicken, etc. Use your imagination, have fun with it, spruce it up with whatever kind of garnish that strikes you and make your crew feel special. I have added the actual recipe for crepe batter below, as opposed to “Open package, dump in bowl, add water”.
1 C. Flour
½ C. Milk (UHT Ok)
½ C. Water (Salt not Ok)
¼ tsp. Salt
2 Tbsp Melted Butter (or Extra Virgin Olive Oil if you are in Greece)
If making sweet, rather than savory crepes, you might consider adding about half a teaspoon of cinnamon or vanilla extract.
Mix together the flour and eggs, slowly add the water and milk until you have a smooth batter, slightly more runny than pancake batter, then add the salt and butter/oil. Heat a fry pan over medium/medium-high heat (you can use a minimal amount of butter or oil if it isn’t non-stick) and pour in about ¼ to 1/3 Cup of batter. Roll the pan around to make an even, thin layer. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until the crepe lifts easily with a spatula or you can do a pan flip (gotta love the pros!), cook the other side for about a minute and slide onto a plate for filling.
1 pkg. Cream Cheese
Sugar to taste (roughly 3-4 Tbsp. on average)
Favorite jam or fresh fruit sliced thin or small cubes or Nutella, etc. (see above)
Sliced banana, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi or star fruit