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Tips for making crepes at home

Crepes are easy to make at home, their fillings are a good way to use up leftovers, and, to make mealtimes happy times, you can make the fillings suit each diner's tastes.

"I can fill them with just about anything you want," says Christian Le Padellec, chef-owner of Le Petit Cafe in Dania.

Here are some tips for making and filling crepes:

+ There is some argument as to whether the batter needs a rest after it's mixed and before it's cooked. We've tried it both ways and didn't notice a difference.

+ The batter will be very thin, the texture of heavy cream. That's so you can spread it in the pan easily. If, however, your crepes cook into a lacy pattern, the batter may be too thin. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour to the batter, suggests Lou Seibert Pappas in Crepes (Chronicle Books, 1998).

+ If making crepes in a 6- or 7-inch pan, you can add the batter and tilt the pan to spread it out. This will result in a rather thick, soft crepe. If making crepes in a 10-inch skillet, you can get a crisper, thinner crepe by spreading out the batter with the flat front edge of a spatula. The trick is to get a round, evenly thick crepe.

+ Do not put too much butter or oil in the crepe pan or griddle, because the batter will slide instead of spread and become the consistency of scrambled eggs. We found that using a non-stick pan and buttering it before the first crepe was cooked was sufficient. We did not continue to butter it before we added batter for each additional crepe.

+ If you have a pan dedicated to crepes, it is best to just wipe it out after you've finished cooking instead of washing it. You need to be careful not to scratch the pan.

+ Crepe fillings need to have a little bit of sauce with them. You don't want them to be too dry.

+ Crepes can be healthful or decadent depending upon what you put in them. For those watching their diets, seafood or chicken with tomato sauces or vegetable fillings are good choices. Those who want to indulge can go for bechamel sauce, cheese, sausage and other rich ingredients.

+ Crepes can be folded in a variety of ways. The easiest is to fold the sides in over the filling and place on the plate. Le Padellec uses a different technique to fold his large, crisp crepes. He folds in the sides to form almost a rectangle. Then he uses the edge of his spatula to score the folded crepe roughly into thirds. Next he folds up the one third from the bottom as he folds down the third from the top to meet in the middle. The two flaps brace each other, and they stand up.

He also has been known to put the filling on one half of the crepe, fold it in half and then into quarters.

Laurent Tasic of Sage French Cafe in Fort Lauderdale makes some of his into a ficelle, rolling them up to look like cigars.

And chef David Leonardi of Pierre's in Islamorada brings the crepe up around the filling, pleats it on top and ties it with a scallion to form a "purse."

+ Tasic suggests that for fun you think of a crepe as a rolled pizza. That should help you get creative with the fillings. He also recommends letting children get involved with the filling and perhaps even helping to fold their own.