More Magic Pan History AND Cheese Fritters

The Magic Pan opened in San Francisco by Laszlo and Paulette Fono had quite a backstory. In 1968, a trademark application (serial #72294035) for a device to speed up making crepes. Mr. Fono had engineered “The Magic Pan”. It looked like a ships wheel, with inverted pans affixed to this wheel, and were heated from below. The operator would spin the wheel, ladle on some batter, and spin the wheel. A half dozen crepes could be made quickly, and uniformly. (Easier than a chef could manipulate a half dozen crepe pans, I’d guess.) The Fono’s, native Hungarians, came to the United States after the revolution in their country, in 1957. They initially moved to Colorado. For 8 years they held various jobs. Mr. Fono worked in taxidermy, as a groundskeeper at a country club, and later, processing checks for a bank and doing bookkeeping. Mrs. Fono worked in a bank, but she also did catering, with recipes learned from her Mother. The crepes were popular, and people encouraged her to open a restaurant.

So, they opened a restaurant.

In 1964, after a move to San Francisco, the first Magic Pan, a very small 20 seat restaurant, was opened on Fillmore Street. A second was opened in Ghiradelli Square in 1967.

Ghiradelli had their main a chocolate manufacturing plant in huge brick buildings since the early 1800’s They had a great view of the waterfront, and only a few blocks from the tourist mecca, Fisherman’s Wharf. When Ghiradelli moved manufacturing to the East Bay suburb of San Leandro in the early 1960s the property was sold to Bill Roth and his mother Lurline Matson Roth. They envisioned a daring experiment to combine art, culture, dining, outdoor living and entertainment in a historic San Francisco building that, otherwise, if not for the architects and others hoping to preserve the building. It was a preservation success. The move to convert a massive factory into small shops and restaurants was slowly accepted (not an “overnight-success” by any means). Ghiradelli Square was opened “officially” in 1964. At first there weren’t many retail occupants, so rents were very low. The Magic Pan was an early “anchor” tenant. Over the next decade it was populated by clothing designer shops, hand-made jewelry stores, pottery and other handcrafts, a candle shop (where you dipped a wick in vats of wax, to make your own candles), a toy store, a chocolate and ice cream shop (featuring Ghiradelli chocolate, of course), and an immense glass walled shop in the center of the open square that featured an immense, very expensive, Alexander Calder Kinetic Sculpture in the center of the building, but sold works by more local (and affordable) artists such as bay area artist Joel Hotchkiss. Other restaurants and a rathskeller opened (only accessible from the street). It was an unusual way to spend an afternoon, it was next to a cable car turn table, and only a two block walk to Fisherman’s Wharf.

They received a great deal of good press, including an August 1965, article in Sunset Magazine, and several newspaper articles. The San Francisco Chronicle reviewed it glowingly. They received several offers to either purchase or franchise the restaurant. In all, they negotiated with Stouffer Foods, Holiday Inns, but, finally made a deal with Quaker Oats 1968.

Quaker Oats purchased the restaurants ($56,015.94 in 1968 dollars would equal $480k in today’s dollars) and, the assignment of the Magic Pan device for $221,584 ($1.9 million today), and gave them each jobs. $30k to Mr. Fono (about $260k today) and in a glaring sign of the times, Mrs. Fono received $20k ($170k). Mr. Fono became President of Magic Pan Inc, and Mrs. Fono became VP and Assistant Secretary. They were both on the board of directors. In addition, they were to receive 1% of the net sales (if any) of frozen crepe products that Quaker Oats wanted to bring to the market. (They never did.) And, an annual bonus of 5% of the profits (net profits) of the restaurant subsidiary for each fiscal year for ten years. Quaker had promised up to a million a year.

Unfortunately, the promises were not reality. Quaker Oats failed to live up to promises made.

The man at Quaker who became their boss (Frederick D. Montgomery III) was a upper crust Chicago native, a graduate of Yale and the Sorbonne, was difficult to get along with. In later court filings it came out that there was a great deal of acrimony. In memo’s to his bosses, Montgomery heavily criticized contributions of the Fono’s, and impugned their personal integrity. He was sharply critical and derisive. The Fono’s received nothing in bonuses, and were eliminated from all PR. There were several lawsuits, and Quaker settled. In 1970’s Mr. Montgomery became the President of Magic pan took on the chain as his own. (In his obituary it says “he grew it from a single restaurant to 110 over the United States.”)

Once the Fono’s left the business the menus and recipes were changed by Quaker, and towards the end of it’s ownership, some of the newer recipes lacked ‘crepes’ and those that stayed were drastically different.

Some of the recipes incorporated into the Quaker run Magic Pan are available around the web.

The recipe for Cheese Fritters attributed to the Magic Pan:


  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 oz blue cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • dash each: cayenne/salt
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 6 ounces grated cheddar cheese
  • Parmesan cheese, for garnish, grated
  • Vegetable oil for frying.

Mix dry ingredients. Set aside. Melt butter in pan, and add about 1 tablespoon of flour mixture. Make a smooth roux. Add milk, and (stirring constantly over medium heat) add crumbled blue cheese. Stir until melted. Remove from heat. Break eggs into a measuring cup, and whisk. Add, one tablespoon at a time, and stir in well 3 tablespoons of the milk/cheese sauce into the eggs, to temper them. Then, add the whisked, tempered eggs into the sauce. Stir well. Add cheddar cheese. Let sit for a few minutes, and stir again. In a pan heat 1″ of vegetable oil to very hot, drop fritters into hot oil, turn once, cook until lightly browned. Remove, and garnish with grated cheese. Prepare dipping sauce.

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard
  • dash of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Whisk together mayo, mustard, with lemon juice and sugar.

What is a Quiche Without a Crust?

Walking HenA quiche is a savory custard — but it’s not the only one. There are flans, sformato, and gnaffron (and maybe a few I am forgetting about).

The differences between savory flan, savory custard, Italian sformato, and French gnafron are minimal, if they exist at all which is why they are usually grouped together and simply called savory flan in American cookbooks. (If they are included at all. Cookbooks mostly just toss in a few quiche recipes which have crusts).

The whole subject is a mess of different names and minor differences but the same ingredients. There are often differences in the size of the dish it is baked in, and what kind of dish — ramekin, custard cup, casserole.

And, then there is the subject of “texture”.

Most of the various savory custard dishes are cooked in a water bath (bain-marie). That’s when you cook the custard containing ceramic or glass dish (custard cup, ramekin, etc.) in a bigger dish/pan filled with water, and the whole lot is baked in the oven.  A bain-marie evens out the temperature, for a smoother, creamier mouth-texture. (The longer and slower an egg cooks, the more delicate the final product).

I always put the larger dish/pan into the oven, add the small cups, and then pour already warmed water into the larger dish.  Some cooks recommend cold water, some boiling.  I met it in the middle — warm.  (Although, after lots of trials, I never found any real difference between the starting water temperature and the final texture.)

The cooking science with a bain-marie,

The proteins in eggs just begin to coagulate at about 150 degrees Fahrenheit, egg whites at about 140 degrees.  If you surround your custard with a pan of water the water will insulate it from direct heat, and provide a constant temperature that will cook the egg proteins slower than if they were just in the oven at 325 degrees.

Think of it this way — if the oven is set to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, the water filled pan will never go higher than 212 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Crusted quiches never use a bain-marie because the crust would not properly crisp, and the crust itself has some insulating qualities for the egg. Plus, the texture desired with a quiche is more desirable as a slightly rougher, tougher egg dish.  So, when recipes dub something a “crustless quiche” they’re lying to you. it’s a custard, or a custard by another name.

Walnut Flan

1½ pounds walnuts

2 cups minced onions

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup dry white wine

¾ cup heavy cream

6 eggs, whisked

pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

¼ teaspoon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook walnuts in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Set aside, and let cool. Chop into ¼-inch pieces. Sauté onions in butter, and add chopped walnuts. Cook several minutes until onions are lightly browned. Pour in wine, and cook to burn off alcohol (several minutes). Add cream, and cover and cook 10 minutes on very low heat, occasionally removing cover to stir. Remove from heat, and let cool.

Grease six to eight ramekins or custard cups. Fold eggs into cooled walnut mixture. Mix well. Pour into custard cups until three-quarters full. Place cups in deep baking dish, and pour in water to about halfway up sides of cups. Place in oven, and bake 35 to 40 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean.


Need to Use UP 16 eggs?

Eggs Dijon

16 eggs

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 cups sour cream

¼ cup dry white wine

pepper, to taste

½ cup grated sharp cheese

plain bread crumbs

8 English muffins, slightly toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix sour cream, mustard, salt, pepper, and wine with a wire whisk until well blended. Break eggs, leaving them whole, and put into greased 9 x 9–inch baking dish. Cover with grated cheese. Add sour cream mixture, and top with bread crumbs. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until egg whites are done and egg yolks are opaque. Serve over toasted English muffins.

Hangtown Fry


Blue Bell Coffee Shop Placerville CA

Placerville is the county seat of El Dorado County in California, founded in the gold rush days (Sutter’s Mill in nearby Coloma sparked the goldrush in 1849.  Placerville is often referred to as Hangtown by the locals.

The place had has a lot of names. It’s original name was Dry Diggin’s , because miners would haul dirt to the stream that runs through town, to separate the gold from the soil.

(Gold is heavier than dirt… I know this because my brother had a gold mine on the middle fork of the Feather River when I was a kid, and I’d spend hours “panin’ for gold” and getting quite a sunburn in the process. I never found much, but flakes.)

Dry Diggin’s was later called Hangtown by the locals. Some say it was a nickname, others claim it was the name.  It was certainly cited by that name by various writers of the era.  Hangtown because of the numerous hanging that happened there.  As a kid I’d hear these stories, but that’s part of the mystique.Fountain & Tallman Museum, a local historical society located in a beautiful rock rubble building, known as the “Biggest Little Museum in the West” promotes a much calmer version of why hangtown was called hangtown. They attribute it to just three hangings, of three bandits on horseback that came to town, guns blazing.  Nothing about stories I heard of the demise of Bloody Dick, or the other accounts of miscreants abrupt ends

Either way, Dry Diggin’s became Hangtown, until  the local temperance league (a women’s society, who’s main goal was to limit or outlaw the consumption and production of alcohol) pushed to change the name to something more proper.

The town was was a mining hub with lodging, banking, a gold assay office (place that will verify your mineral is gold, and certify its content, so you can get a dollar value on it), a place to buy supplies, groceries, or get a drink at the local saloons.

It was named Placer -ville. Placer is what a person placing a mining claim is called.  (A  place to place a placer?).

In 1854, the town was incorporated as Placerville, and a US Post Office was established there. (There was already a Southern Pacific Railroad spur through the town.)  Nevermind that, most people still called it Hangtown.

Although, the Blue Bell Coffee Shop is credited with creating HangTown Fry, the origination story is even more goofy. The story is that a miner, recently striking it rich, came into the El Dorado Hotel Saloon demanding the “most expensive meal in town”.  (The El Dorado Hotel was the nicest hotel in town.)

Never mind that the Taddich Grill in San Francisco — the oldest operating restaurant on the West Coast, opened in 1849, has promoted this the origin of Hangtown Fry as the omelet was created during the Gold Rush, when a condemned man ordered the two most expensive items he could for his last meal: oysters and eggs.

Either way, oysters had to be expensive in the 1850’s. The oysters  came a long arduous trip for any mollusk, from the ocean. Placerville is nearly 200 miles from the nearest oyster beds. Horses go about 4 miles an hour, so would be a 4-5 day trip.  Trains could do about 78 mph, but with stops, that would be a full day away. Ice wasn’t easy to come by, so these were some rugged oysters.

Chicken eggs and bacon would have had quite the trip, as well and were high priced because demand with all the influx of miners looking to strike-it-rich flooded into the are, before any farming infrastructure set up for the Gold Rush.

AS the “TAMER” story goes, the goldminer was hungry, so he ordered the El Dorado barkeep to instruct the cook to fry up “a mess of eggs, bacon, and some oysters”.

Condemned man, nouveau riche, whatever.  There are French and Italian recipes that pre-date this which combine eggs and oysters. It’s a thoughtful combination.

The Blue Bell Coffee Shop  promoted it, and had it on the menu. It was “the thing to order” when passing through the area.  My parents always stopped there when was open (from 1930 to about 1970,). They always had Hangtown Fry.

But, my no means was it the only restaurant serving in in Northern California, although many amended the dish to add onions, bell peppers, cheese,  spices.  One recipe I found called for a Hollandaise sauce dollop on top.   <ewww>

The dish is best plain — with three ingredients: eggs, bacon and oysters.

The Blue Bell Cafe recipe (serves one)

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon milk

mix of cracker crumbs and bread crumbs

oil (optional)

3 oysters

2 slices of bacon

2 eggs, beaten lightly

Mix milk with eggs, and then put oysters into the mix.  Pull out oysters, and roll them in bread crumbs.   Set aside.  In skillet fry bacon until lightly browned (and just before its crisp). Add oil to bacon grease, if needed. Line up the bacon so that it is parallel (like two railroad tracks) and pour some of the beaten eggs over the top of the bacon, and then add oysters to bacon, and add the remaining egg. let it cook, until the bottom can be lifted and fold over, as an omelette. And cook until the center is set.  Dish up so that the bacon and is on top.

In 1975, Gourmet Magazine omitted the bacon, but left in the bacon fat. It’s tasty. (I’ve found more variations on this recipe than the original.)

1975 Gourmet Magazine Hangtown Fry

4 oysters

2 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons heavy cream

2 tablespoons bacon fat

salt and pepper to taste.

In a skillet, saute oysters in bacon fat. Mix eggs and cream, and pour over oysters. Cook until the eggs are set.

I know it sounds weird to have oysters with eggs, but its actually really tasty..  pairs well with some breakfast Champagne… (Mimosa or Kir). In the Goldrush days it became the mark of prosperity to order it. It was THE status symbol of the day, and considered good luck. Who doesn’t need some tasty good luck?


Joe’s Special

original joesJoe’s Joe’s Special is a dish that old-timer’s in San Francisco still rave about  (even though the restaurants closed in 2014).

My mom loved to go to Original Joe’s just to eat the Joe’s Special.  It really did look like a mess on a plate. It’s what my parents would refer to as a slumgullian dish (slumgullian technically refers to a type of stew, but Mark Twain called a liquid mix, and later generations just used it to describe any mishmash of odd things combined).

Joe’s Special was a mix of ground beef, and eggs, and mushrooms, and spinach, and cheese all mixed up in a mess, and served for dinner.

It was the signature dish of Original Joe’s a restaurant in San Francisco that was as San Francisco as the Golden Gate Bridge and fog. The restaurants, when we went to them, were big booths with dark patent leather upholstery, and a counter that overlooked the kitchen. There were several of them, all different (unlike a modern cookie-cutter chain restaurant) but similar menus.

The history: In the 1920’s a group of entrepreneurs joined together to open a restaurant that would do exhibition cooking — where the customers could see inside the kitchen. The term “Joe” was a generic name for a good guy, and dated back to the wild Barbary Coast days. They opened the first restaurant New Joe’s.

Joe’s Special became their signature dish — with a rather mundane origin story. (Drunk customer came in late at night, wanted a spinach omelette, but wanted some meat in it. All that was left was some hamburger, so it was tossed in the mix. Meh. Whatever.)

New Joe’s had some problems between partners, so Louis Rocca and Ante Rodin (a Croatian immigrant) teamed up and opened a small 14-stool counter restaurant, that later grew to a full dining room, and then to several different spots around town, and later in San Jose.

They dubbed their restaurant “Original Joe’s” as a dig on “New Joe’s”.  Theirs became a popular chain featuring Italian-American Cuisine, some variations on the typical/standard hamburger, some other dishes (which I don’t remember) and the slumgullian-y Joe’s Special.

My mother was especially fond of it, and insisted there was “no way to make it at home, right“.  <eye roll> “Whatever Mom.”

 Joe’s Special (serves 2-4)

1 pound ground beef  (the menu said ground sirloin)

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup minced up brown button mushrooms

2 cups fresh spinach, chopped, blanched in salted boiling water until limp, drain well

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup cooking sherry


1/2 cup Romano cheese, grated

Heat olive oil until very hot, add ground beef and cook until crumbled and brown, add mushrooms, saute for several minutes until they are slightly soft. Add sherry, and stir well (the alcohol in the sherry cooks off).  Add spinach, and stir in spinach and cook until extra liquid is reduced, and spinach is well heated. Turn down heat to medium.

Add eggs, and mix them well into the mixture. Cook until firm (not runny). Remove from heat, and stir in cheese.

(Note: swiss chard or kale will also work as a substitute for the spinach.)

Serve with a good red wine, and sourdough bread.


chop-sueyWhen American’s think of chop suey, they think of the flashing neon signs at Chinese restaurants across America.  Chop suey is a dish that became a prominent part of American Chinese cuisine.

Never-mind that the dish has no clear origin, Alan Davidson, the noted food historian, concluded in The Oxford Companion to Food, published in 1999, that the myriad of various origin stories, and conflicting accounts are, “…a prime example of culinary mythology…”

I’ve found dozens of stories, some colorful, and some ridiculous, that are repeated in old recipe books, newspapers, and handed down as folk tales. There is a version about how the dish was created by a Chinese-American chef who wanted to both appease the Qing Dynasty premier Li Hongzhang’s visit (1896) and the American hosts’ tastes. Another story claims that Li was hungry, and the hotel restaurant had closed, so he toddled down the street, happening upon a Chinese restaurant that was closing. The chef, not wanting to be offensive to the premier, threw together a dish with what he had left. Another story was that it wasn’t Li, but a bunch of rowdy, drunken 49er miners were in San Francisco, and forced the restaurant to open, and the chef, fearing his life, made a dish with bits and scraps. The miners wanted to know the name of the dish. He replied, “tsat seui” but the miners heard it as chopped soo-eee. One, particularly distasteful tale is that a boarding house cook, short on cash, but with several hungry boarders, retrieved food from the garbage to whip up the dish.

The best story of Chop Suey that I encountered was:

In 1903, a Chinese journalist came to the United States.  He wrote that there was a food that all Chinese American restaurants served, but one that he had never heard of: chop suey.

Chop Suey has a national day in the United States (August 29th)

The basics of all the recipes is a mix of meat, eggs, stir fried together with vegetables, in a starch-rich, thick sauce. It is either served over noodles (chow mein) or rice.

The earliest reference to this dish is in a 1911 cookbook written by Jesse Louise Nolton “Chinese Cookery in the Home Kitchen” (Chino-American Publishing Company, Detroit MI)

This dish has so many variations, and some are made with eggs (sometimes chicken sometimes quail, or duck.)

Chop Suey

3 tablespoons cooking oil

1 cup minced onion

¼ cup sliced green onion

1 clove garlic, crushed and minced

1 teaspoon Chinese 5-Spice

¼ cup diced green bell pepper

1 cup cooked shrimp

1 cup cooked chicken

½ cup shredded carrot

½ cup snow peas

1 cup shredded cabbage

1½ cups water

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon soy sauce

Dash vinegar

3 hardboiled eggs, peeled and sliced

In a skillet heat oil. Add onion and garlic, saute for several minutes, on high heat.  Add Chinese 5-spice and  bell pepper. Continue to cook for several minutes.  Add shrimp and chicken, and cook until hot.  Add cabbage, snow peas and carrots.  Add water. Cover pan and simmer for 5 minutes, until vegetables are cooked.   Add a little of the hot liquid to the cornstarch, enough to make a paste, then add paste to cooking liquid. Stir in well.  Cook until the liquid begins to thicken.   Add dash of vinegar, and soy sauce, to taste.  Add slices of hard boiled eggs, and spoon liquid over, to heat. Serve.



Duck eggs… are worth finding.  Duck eggs are an excellent substitute for people with allergies to chicken eggs.

Ducks eggs have a very large yolk, compared to a chicken egg. The yolk is duck eggthicker, creamier, and richer.  The duck yolk does not taste very different from a chicken egg. They are delicious in sauces and custards.

The whites are much thicker than a chicken’s. Duck whites are almost “chalky” in flavor,  different than a chicken egg. They take some getting used to.

The upside is that the thickness is fantastic to whip up a the whites.  They make superior stiffly beaten egg whites (especially with a drop of lemon juice, or some tartar powder, which reacts to the proteins and will make an even stronger bond.)

They are sturdy egg whites.

Stiff, in fact, they hold the air so well, that if you are like me (and can’t bake for shit) and you want to make a sponge cake (from scratch) it’s amazing. It works like magic! (I have always had an issue with my chicken’s egg sponge cakes falling in the oven. I’m not a baker.)  Same for souffles which become so much easier with the superior, resilient foam.

Duck egg yolks make a creamy, rich Hollandaise Sauce.

Duck Egg Yolk Hollandaise Sauce

1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 duck egg yolks
1 stick unsalted butter, melted*
Salt, fresh chopped chervil or tarragon (your choice) and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a double boiler heat the water to a simmer (there will be small bubbles on the bottom and sides) mix the yolks and lemon juice (the lemon reacts to the egg proteins and helps them to bind together, lengthen and strengthen) and whisk.  Slowly, and I mean…just a little bit at a time whisk in the butter. Don’t add it too fast or the emulsion will not form and, the sauce will turn into little distasteful curd-like chunks. (Called ‘breaking’ the sauce.) So, take your time, and keep the egg yolks moving with the whisk. when all the melted butter is one with the egg yolk, add salt and pepper and the herb of your choice.

This sauce is delicious over poached eggs, a steak, over vegetables, over poached fish, over an omelette, over corned beef and a poached egg, as a dipping sauce for french fries… to name a few.

It is thicker and creamier than a sauce made with chicken’s eggs. If the sauce is too thick, and some ice water, at the end of the cooking, and stir until the desired consistency is achieved.

* home made ghee (or clarified butter) can also be used. It will make a thicker sauce, and may need to be thinned with a little ice water.


Savory French Toast

breadUnlike French fries (which are said to have originated in Belgium) French toast really is French but it is not exclusively French.

In the United States, we consider French toast to be a breakfast item. (In France they call French toast pain perdu, and it is eaten as a sweet dessert.) French toast can be sweet or savory. In the UK it’s “eggy toast” (or Gypsy Toast)

The concept is simple; it has been around since the Romans: Dip stale bread in a whisked egg mixed with some dairy, let it soak, and cook it. There is evidence of this dish’s dates back to the Middle Ages, and, all over the globe. It probably has many origins, because the dish is so simple, so obvious, is that it may have been “invented” in many places simultaneously. After all, stale bread is a shame to waste, and eggs (for most of the year) plentiful.

There are hundreds and hundreds of variations, and those variations include what is put on top of the French toast. This dish may be the most common egg dish in the world. There are recipes using every variety of bread—from Wonder Bread to sourdough, to all sorts of artisan rustic breads, to challah. There are even recipes for a kind of French toast using unleavened crisp bread, the most notable being the matza brei.

French Toast can be fried in a skillet, or baked in the oven.

Savory Cheesy Eggy Toast
½ cup milk
4 eggs
4 slices stale bread

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated or shredded cheese (your choice of cheese)

ketchup (garnish)

Mix egg and milk. Dip bread slices, and coat both sides evenly. Melt butter in skillet on medium heat, and heat until very hot. Cook until golden on both sides. Move slices of bread to an oven broiler pan, sprinkle with cheese, place under broiler, and heat until cheese melts. Serve with ketchup.



Cold Weather: Custard Soup

2 old men eating soup

Two Old Men Eating Soup, 1819–23, by Francisco de Goya, currently in the Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

Custard soup is a mixture of egg and broth or an egg-and-dairy mixture. They are different from poached egg soups in that the eggs are incorporated into the recipe, rather than sitting on the side as in a poached egg soup or being stirred into the soup to form the long ribbons of egg-flower-style soup. The eggs give a creamy thickness to the soup, but they are fragile. Eggs cooked in this way are notoriously unstable: They can cook too fast or too long and become lumpy or granular. Some recipes leave out the egg whites, because without them, the yolks are easier to cook without the risk of granular blobs. But even yolks alone should be carefully tended and not overcooked.

They are easier cooked in a double boiler so that temperature can be controlled better. This is a soup that you should hover over and stir, which is nice on a cold winter day. (For me, any excuse to hang out where it is warm is a plus.)

Custard soup is hearty, and satisfying. It’s perfect to sooth a sore throat. The turmeric not only gives a hint of color, and a pleasant taste, but is a health booster).

Custard Soup

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 pinch baking soda
¼ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 quart milk
6 eggs
¼ cup finely minced onion
1 chicken bouillon cube
ground nutmeg for garnish

In double boiler, melt butter, add flour, and make smooth roux. Add white pepper, turmeric, nutmeg, and pinch of baking soda. In bowl combine eggs and milk, and beat well. Pour into double boiler along with minced onion and bouillon cube. Stir constantly, and heat until smooth and creamy.

Serve in small soup cups, and garnish with small amount of ground nutmeg. Serve immediately.

1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom
or, 1 teaspoon Madras Curry Powder
or, 2 teaspoons lemon zest, and 2 teaspoons lemon juice.

Remembering The Magic Pan

the magic pans The Magic Pan restaurants were a chain that focused on crepes. The first Magic Pan restaurant was opened in San Francisco’Ghirardelli Square in the 1960s by Hungarian immigrants Lazlo and Paulette Fono. Their crepes were interesting, inventive, and modestly priced.

The Magic Pan chain is credited with popularizing crepes in North America. (At the company’s peak, it had 110 restaurants across the United States and Canada.)

Lazlo Fono is credited with the invention of a crepe-making machine that sped up production of the thin, flat pancakes. These machines were used in all of the chain’s restaurants.

The restaurant chain was sold in the 1970s to Quaker Oats, which sold it in the 1980s to an Oakland, California, company called Bay Bottlers (a Royal Crown/Canada Dry affiliate).

The crepe fad waned.

The last Magic Pan restaurant (in McLean, Virginia) closed in 1995. With that closure came the loss of the proprietary recipes for the chain. (Magic Pan had never produced a recipe book, although Paulette Fono did write a book about their crepes in 1969.)

Several Web sites do have some approximations of some of the Magic Pan recipes and some scaled-down restaurant recipes. These are a few that I have collected:

Magic Pan Basic Crepe Batter

4 eggs
6 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups milk
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons melted butter

Beat eggs with sugar and vanilla, and add milk. Add in flour, and stir until mixed. Add melted butter, and stir in. Refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes. Before cooking, take out and whisk (or use electric mixer) until well blended and smooth.

Heat small amount of oil in skillet, and add enough batter to barely coat bottom of pan with a thin layer. Rotate pan to spread batter. Brown one side, and then flip and brown other side. Stack cooked crepes on plate, and if they seem to be sticking together, insert sheets of wax paper between layers.


Magic Pan Ham Palascintas Covered In Creamy Mustard Sauce

½ pound honey-baked ham, ground or finely minced
½ cup sour cream

3 tablespoons flour
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk or cream
1 cup dry bread crumbs


2 tablespoons butter; 2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup cream or half-and-half
¼ cup Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon white pepper

Make a dozen crepes, using above recipe. Mix ham and sour cream. Place spoonful of ham mixture into center of each crepe, fold tops and bottoms to hold in filling, and roll up. Beat eggs with milk. Roll crepe in flour, then in egg/milk mixture, and then in bread crumbs.

Heat skillet with ample amounts of cooking oil (one inch or more). Fry each coated crepe until puffy and golden-brown on all sides.
To make sauce, melt butter on medium heat in skillet and add flour. Blend until a smooth roux. Add chicken broth, and cook until sauce begins to thicken. Add cream, and reduce heat to low. Stir constantly until sauce begins to thicken and bubble. Remove from heat, and stir in mustard, lemon juice, and pepper.

Spoon generous helpings of sauce over filled fried crepes.


Magic Pan Chicken Divan
12 cooked crepes (see recipe above)

1½ pounds broccoli, cooked, drained, and mashed
2 cups chopped cooked chicken

¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
2 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
3 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 cups sour cream

In skillet on medium heat, melt butter and add flour to make a smooth roux. Add broth and Worcestershire sauce, and cook until mixture begins to thicken. Reduce heat to low, add 2 cups of cheese, and cook until cheese is melted. Pour this sauce into 2 cups sour cream, adding gradually and stirring constantly. Set aside.

Mix mashed broccoli and cooked chicken together. Place a tablespoon of filling into each crepe. Fold top and bottom of crepe so filling doesn’t leak out, and roll crepe. Place in greased ovenproof pan. Pour sauce over crepes, and add remaining cheese. Put in 350-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until cheese melts.


Magic Pan Chicken Crepe Elegante

6 crepes (see recipe above)

3 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups diced cooked chicken
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
2 egg yolks
½ cup cream or half-and-half
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in a saucepan on medium heat. Add flour, and mix until a smooth roux. Add chicken stock, and bring to boil. Cook until mixture is reduced by about half and is thickened. Remove from heat, and stir in chicken, salt, pepper, parsley, and chives. Beat egg yolks, cream, and two or three tablespoons of filling in mixing bowl. Stir cream/egg mixture into hot filling. Mix until evenly blended.

Put generous amount of mixture into center of crepes. Roll up, and place in greased ovenproof baking dish. Add remainder of mixture over top, and top with grated cheese. Bake 10 to 15 minutes. Serve at once.