What to Eat in France: Matafans, or Thick Pancakes from the Franche-Comté
Matafans are a specialty of the rugged region of Franche-Comté in eastern France; the word is Franco-Provençal. They are sometimes called mata fame, meaning in Spanish “to kill hunger.” It’s not surprising that the word originally comes from Spanish, since they controlled this region in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Matafans are also found in the Savoy and Lyon under the francisized name matefaim.
They are fairly ancient, and Rabelais mentioned them in his third book in 1546.
Matafans were originally eaten by peasants for breakfast. Today, they are often eaten as a starter, accompanied by a green salad.
They are essentially very thick pancakes, and in the old days were made with leftover mashed potatoes, but can also be made with apples and eaten as a dessert. Lucy Vanel gives a recipe for the historical potato recipe on her website. Today, most people make them from wheat flour.
They are eaten at Candlemas, washed down with Génépi, an absinthe liqueur. The dessert version is accompanied by a sparkling rosé or a fortified wine.
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
Pinch of castor sugar
5 T. flour
Pinch of salt
1 t. beechnut oil; hazelnut oil can be used in its place
1 T. Kirsch or other cherry liqueur or brandy
3 T. butter, salted
Extra-small crêpe or frying pan
- Preheat oven to 200°F.
- Mix the flour, egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, salt and oil in a mixing bowl, leaving a few lumps.
- Mix in the kirsch.
- Set it aside for one hour.
- In a frying pan, melt a little butter. When it starts to sizzle, turn down heat and pour in enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan, carefully turning pan until the bottom is entirely covered in a thick layer.
- When it starts to get dry around the edges, flip and cook on the other side until it is golden brown. Place in a shallow oven pan and put into oven to stay warm.
- Repeat until batter is finished.
- Serve for breakfast or dessert with butter and/or fresh fruit.