Saturday, April 25, 2015

THE MAGIC PAN POTAGE ST GERMAIN


Ok it's time for this soup. When I worked at the Magic Pan this soup was somewhat of a revelation. It's so good that it was one of those things on the Pan's menu that people came into have specifically. It was in essence a "hook" dish. You know one of those dishes that restaurants dream of having that people come in time and again as fans to savour.

Now if you have been reading my blog you will know that I have referenced the Magic Pan Restaurant before. But for those of you who have not been a brief story.


The Magic Pan was a restaurant chain started by a Hungarian Couple , the Fono's in San Francisco in the 1970's. The original concept had been an Austrian style crepe restaurant mostly with recipes from Mrs Fono's family background. There were Ham crepes and Spinach crepes and chocolate and Strawberry crepes for dessert.

The business expanded and was purchased by Quaker Oats in the 1980's. They took the concept expanded it to a french country kitchen concept and rolled it out across the nation. The center piece of each Magic Pan was the giant tile enclosed Crepe Wheel which spun around and cooked the crepes and other dishes while the customers looked on. I remember as a 12 year old being taken to the Pan and being just mesmorized by the giant cooking wheel of crepe goodness! It was one of the first "chain" restaurants in the country in a time when the US was just beginning to discover different foods. The Pan delivered that and at a decent price point. It was also a perfect time for a crepe restaurant as like fondue, crepes were all the rage in the 1970's. The thing that was interesting about the Pan looking back was that all of the food was cooked on site with real recipes. This required a staff of cooks to be behind the scenes at all the locations and was not a cheap way to do business. Amongst the many reasons for the demise of the chain was the rise of sit down restaurants like TGI Friday's and Applebee's that offered a full service bar and menu with a central commissary supplying the chain. This meant cost savings on site and guaranteed that that food was the same everywhere. Interestingly enough this concept was pioneered by Howard Johnson's, who with Jacque Pepin at the helm produced frozen entrees which could be uniformly served all over the US.

Eventually through falling revenues and customer base the Pan collapsed. Interestingly enough the last Pan to close was the Mclean Store where I worked. A testament to Sue the manager and eventual owner I understand, who ran a tight ship and kept it afloat!

Even as people turned away from the Magic Pan because of trends so today people are looking back and recognizing the value that the concept had  not only as a novelty but as a place and a culinary experience. Whether the scene of many a boozy lunch by the ladies of Mclean or candle lit dinners for couples in love in the evenings, the quiet elegance and french country charm enveloped the diner in a world beyond the Mall and beyond their own. Upon entering the Tyson's Pan one was struck by the charm and sophistication of the surroundings. The excellent service and of course the tasty and interesting food. Food which for the time was new, foreign, and different. Before food TV, Media, food blogs and the internet., Americans were new to many of the foods the Magic Pan was serving.
And many look back with fondness to the time and place they discovered those foods for the first time. The Magic Pan.

For me the Pan was a great place to work, filled with a fun and interesting cast of characters. I learned a lot form those folks. Many of them were full time employees, I was the summer help but we all got along and they welcomed me and Kai into the fold with open arms. Salty and Rough they were the workers who make this country great. They worked hard and they played hard. But as a group they were awesome to spend that summer with. And this was where I learned that food service comes with a healthy serving of humor, cause people are very funny when it comes to their eating habits and the things they say about food. For example a young couple came in and was obviously on a date. Trying to be proper and order for his date the young man announced to me that... "she will have the St. Jacques "Creepie" and I will have the Beef  and Mushroom "Creepie"", mispronouncing the word "crepe". Well as you can imagine it was hard to keep a straight face, and the crew referred to the crepes as "creepies" the rest of the summer. Lots of milelage from that one. Ah, but it's the little things that make life fun!

Now to the food. There were serveral dishes which made the Magic Pan famous and there are people who would disagree which were their favorites. There was of course the famous Potage St. Germain, or french country pea soup served with a dallop of sour cream and a mini decanter of Sherry wine. There was the Orange Almond salad. Amongst the crepes were the chicken and beef and seafood options and then there was the famous Monte Cristo Sandwich which to this day I have never had duplicated.                      ( Although I hear Bennigan's ripped off the recipe). Then there were the saute pans, with veal picatta and fettucini Carbonara         ( Still my favorite version ever). And lastly the desserts. All excellent washed down with the Pan's excellent Bloody Mary!

But today I can't think of another Pan recipe I would rather recreate than the famous Potage St. Germain. Now finding the exact recipe for this was very difficult indeed but I did find it. I got a copy of the original cooking manual and here it the recipe. If you try it you will enjoy it! Yum! So Enjoy ya'll.



THE MAGIC PAN POTAGE ST GERMAIN

1 (1 lb) ham bone 4 1⁄2 cup water 
1 (13 oz) can chicken broth
 2 cups split peas 
2⁄3 cup finely chopped leeks or green onions
 1⁄3 cup finely chopped carrots 
1⁄3 cup finely chopped celery
 1 tsp granulated sugar
 1⁄2 tsp garlic powder
 1 tsp salt 
1⁄4 tsp thyme 
1 bay leaf
 1⁄2 tsp pepper
 21⁄2 cup milk
1 cup whipping cream 
1 cup chopped ham, cooked
1⁄2 cup chopped chicken, cooked (optional)

Place ham bone in large pot.
Add water, chicken stock and peas and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.
Sauté the onions, carrots and celery just until limp.
Add them to the soup pot along with all the seasonings and continue to simmer until peas are very soft and mixture is thick—about 45 minutes. 
Remove ham bone. Gradually stir in the milk and cream. 
Add ham and chicken. Simmer, stirring occasionally, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Potage St. Germain soup should be served with a dollop of sour cream and a splash of sherry. The sherry was served on the side in a tiny glass pitcher, while the sour cream was placed in the bowl and dusted with chopped parsley.

14 comments:

  1. I worked at the Tysons Corner Magic Pan from 1977 to 1983. Sue was my last manager before I transfered to the Magic Pan in Beverly Hills with Paul Zellinski's help (the Area Supervisor). What years did you work there? I remember the Potage being made with the #10 cans of Pea suop and cream of chicken soup. Was this recipe from the early days of MP?

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    1. Hey thanks for your comments. This recipe is actually from a kitchen manual I have recovered from the early years of the Magic Pan. Later during my time as well I do believe the soup was made with cans of soup. I worked with Sue the GM of Tysons and was there the Summers of 1984 and 1985 so we must have just missed each other. Serving that soup with glass carafes of sherry and dollops of sour cream.
      It was a Summer job for me and my best friend who got me the job and I loved working there. The people were great the money was great and it was near the end of the reign of the Pan as a really popular place in the Mall. Thanks for stopping by.

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  2. Any chance of your posting the recipe for the Magic Pan Orange Almond Salad?

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  3. I worked as s hostess and crepe maker at the Woodfield Mall location in late 1973 until my first college Christmas break in 1975. The food was amazing!

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    1. It was! Glad you enjoyed the memory. I'll have a few more recipes coming stay tuned!

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  4. I worked in Toronto during the 80's. It was so fun. We made the soup from can. When I go home to Canada I always get cans of Habitat French Canadian Peas soup and it always reminds me of my time at The Pan.

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    1. I have such fond food memories of my time at the Pan and of course the food. This soup was just comfort in a bowl. Glad you stopped by hope you browse around and see other stuff you like. Cheers

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  5. Oh I loved the Magic Pan as a kid. My mom, when we were lucky, took us to the one on Newbury Street in Boston. My favorites were always the Potage and the Chicken Divan crepe. They used to serve me the sherry when I was a kid! I don't know if that was cool, but I loved the tang it added. My mom recently died and I'm feeling all things nostalgic for the places she took us to. I'd love to try to replicate this recipe in her memory. She also loved that spinach salad, which again, I think the secret was the sherry in the dressing. Recipe?

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  6. I'm so glad that this post spoke to you and reminded you of your Mom. Special times spent over food with loved ones is a powerful memory. It's truly the manner in which food is a great connector. The spinach salad recipe is actually on this blog. Just look for it. Thanks for sharing your story and I'm glad this blog post brought back good memories. Become a follower if you want. I have more Magic Pan coming. Cheers

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  7. I'm so thrilled to find this recipe today! I also worked for the Magic Pan (in North Olmsted Ohio)....ask my children-- I still talk about it and try to recreate recipes to this day! One of my favorites was the Cheese Fritters and mustard sauce. They also know the story of my frightening attempt while working in the Pan kitchen to make fried ice cream never having been to Chi Chi's to try it! I started as a Hostess/Crepe maker and still remember fondly the therapeutic and satisfying time I spent behind the crepe wheel. I also wish I could replicate or find their Monte Cristo sandwich. Thanks for the Potage recipe--I'll stay tuned for more!

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  8. Loved The Magic Pan! My family ate their often but my favorite memory is when my father and I ate there after we saw the original Star Wars. 😊

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  9. I loved the Magic Pan. I used to eat at the Tysons Corner and Seven Corner (Falls Church, VA) locations. The Potage St. Germain and the Chicken Divan Crepes were my favorites! I also loved the Orange Almond Salad. There was also a desert crepe filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with a chocolate (mocha) sauce.

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  10. The Ham & Cheese crepe was one of my favorites along with the spinach crepe BUT FAR AND AWAY my favorite thing was the Crepes Beignets with Chocolate fondue....it was a very special place we drove over an hour to get to and we loved it....could you please publish the recipe for the chocolate fondue?

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