Crêpes à la Sauce Camembert

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A crêpe or crepe  is a type of very thin pancake. Crêpes are usually of two types: crêpes sucrées  or sweet crepes, which are made with white flour and eaten for dessert;  and crêpes salées also known as    savoury galettes,  that are made with buckwheat flour and filled with savory fixings.

In terms of culinary etymology, crêpes belong to the general category of ancient Greek Tiganitai, from Greek tiganos (τίγανος), meaning “frying pan”, which in English is literally translated to Pancakes. The French term, crêpe, derives from the Latin crispa, meaning with “creases”. The name “galette” came from the French word galet (“pebble”) since the first gallettes were made on a large pebble heated in a fire.

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While crêpes are often associated with Brittany, a region in the northwest  of France, they are also enjoyed throughout France, Belgium, Canada, and many parts  of Europe, North Africa, Lebanon, and Argentina.

Preparing crêpes at home is also common, and very easy.  As a home cook, you have the ultimate freedom to use whatever fillings you like. In this way, crêpes salées become a wrapper for all types of leftovers. It should be noted that the addition of an egg almost always improves a savory crêpe.

This is an Americanized recipe where the crepe batter needs to be refrigerated for at least 30 minutes before cooking the crepes. As the batter chills, the flour expands and absorbs the liquid, which helps produce tender crepes. You can cook the crepes in advance and fill them just before serving.
Recipe Adapted from
Williams-Sonoma
2019

Serves 6

Ingredients:

3 eggs
2 cups milk
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3  tablespoons olive oil
3/4  pound white button mushrooms, sliced
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
3/4 pound thick-cut baked ham, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces Camembert cheese, rind removed, diced
4 green onions, white and light green portions, chopped
1/2 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and 1 cup of the milk. Add the 3/4 cup flour and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and whisk until the batter is smooth. Stir in the canola oil. Refrigerate the batter for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight before making the crepes.

In a crepe pan over medium heat, melt 1/4 Tbs. of the butter. Pour about 1/4 cup batter into the pan, then quickly tilt and turn the pan in a circular motion to spread the batter evenly to the edges. Cook until the crepe is golden underneath, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a spatula, flip the crepe and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a warm plate. Repeat to make 12 crepes.

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add half of the mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon the salt and pepper and sauté until the mushrooms are dark brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Push the mushrooms to the side of the pan, add the remaining mushrooms, and sauté until the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms are dark brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mushrooms to a bowl. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the ham to the pan and sauté until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer the ham to the bowl with the mushrooms.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the remaining 1 cup milk and whisk in the 3 tablespoons of flour. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Add the cream and cheese and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Add the ham, mushrooms, green onions and parsley and stir until heated through. Spoon 1/4 cup of the filling in the middle of each crepe and roll the crepe around the filling.

Cook’s Notes:

When making crêpes, you make your batter ahead of time. The night before is ideal, but at least two hours in advance is required.If you are making the crêpesbatter the night before, refrigerate it, and then let it come to room temperature before cooking. You want to give it time to relax into itself, and for the flour to absorb the liquid evenly. If the batter looks a little dry after this resting period, it’s ok to add a bit more liquid.

Another great thing: crepes freeze incredibly well. My suggestion is to make the entire batch at once, even if you will have extra. Simply layer what you won’t eat between parchment paper, move to a sealed plastic bag, and voila! Now you have crêpes for the next time too.

Sources:

Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, XIV, 645c; Galen, On the Properties of Foods, I, 3.

Cristina Sciarra (2012). “All About Crêpes“.The Roaming Kitchen.
Accessed October 19, 2019.

Williams-Sonoma (2019) Crepes a la Camembert.  Accessed September 10, 2019

 

 

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Crespelle alla Fiorintina

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catherine_de_medicisThe culinary historical trail leads to Catherine de’ Medici, the Florentine Queen of France, for introducing these savory crepes to French cuisine with the help of her Tuscan chefs.

In 1533, at age fourteen, she was married to Henry of Orléans, the future king of France.
When she moved to France, an entourage of friends, servants, and waiters accompanied her. The Florentine cooks who went with her brought with them the secrets of Italian cooking to France, introducing peas, beans, artichokes, canard a l’orange, (duck a la orange) and carabaccia (onion soup). The pastry makers also demonstrated their innovative genius with sorbets and ice creams, marmalades, fruits in syrup, pastry making, and pasta. A certain Sir Frangipani gave his name to the custard and the tart known in France as Frangipane. Is is not ironic that all these dishes that are considered so quintessentially French, are actually Italian in origin.

Catherine also brought with her to the French table a new protocol, such as the separation of salty and sweet dishes, at a time when sweets were still consumed together with meat and fish in the medieval style all over Europe. Everyone in France was amazed by the Florentine elegance she  introduced, including gracious table settings and dining, fine linen with elegant embroidery, as well as luxurious silverware and crystal stemware.

At the time, French cooking was already a rich, evolving discipline, and the presence of the new style profoundly influenced French cuisine over the next few centuries. Catherine and her army of Florentine chefs reformed the antique French cooking of a medieval tradition and transformed the food we know as today as the modern French cooking. As time went on, French cooks improved and magnified the Florentine contributions. While many dishes and techniques were being forgotten in Italy, the French made them into international cuisine.

And based on the  various  evidence in the culinary literature, it suggests that crepes were also Florentine in origin and the French adapted them into what we now enjoy  today, in both sweet and savory forms. Crespelle  appears to be like Cannelloni, which are pasta tubes filled with spinach and ricotta, but the crespelle is actually a very thin pancake crepe made of flour and eggs instead of a thick sheet of pasta.

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Photo Credit: Josephine Guerriero, Pezzole delle nonna, Posta La Ricetta

In the Tuscan countryside, this dish was formerly  called “pezzole delle nonna.” Pezzole is the Tuscan way of saying “fazzoletto” which means “handkerchief”  and so pezzole delle Nonna  can be translated as  “Grandma’s Handkerchiefs“. Pezzoles can be described as omelets or crepes stuffed with ricotta cheese and vegetables covered with a Béchamel sauce. They are neatly folded into quarters and served family style in a dish, looking very much like handkerchiefs in a stacked in a drawer.  Given its past, and its modern incarnations, this  dish is definitely a home-style comfort food and is  found in extremely traditional Tuscan trattorias.

Serves 8

Ingredients:
For the Crespelle batter:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk

For the filling:
1 pound fresh spinach, washed, stems removed
1/2 pound ricotta
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

For the Béchamel:
4 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

To Finish:
About 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 cup tomato passata or  prepared tomato sauce (See Cook’s Notes)

Directions:
For the crepes: In a bowl whisk together all the ingredients to form a smooth, thin batter. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before proceeding. Heat a small skillet or crepe pan and when hot, brush lightly with butter. Ladle about 1/4 cup of crepe batter into the pan, tilting the skillet to evenly coat the pan. Cook until golden brown on the bottom and the top begins to look dry, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a spatula, carefully turn the crepe and cook the second side until the bottom colors slightly, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter to yield 8 crepes

For the filling:  Bring water to a boil in a saucepan and blanch spinach for a few minutes. Drain and dry  the spinach with a kitchen towel by squeezing the spinach to extract any remaining moisture, then coarsely chop to yield about 1 cup. In a bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and stir to thoroughly combine. Set aside.

 Preheat the oven to 375 ° F.

Lightly butter a 1  1/2 quart casserole dish.

Divide the spinach filling evenly among the crepes, using about 1/3 cup filling for each. Roll the crepes, like enchiladas, up around the filling and place in the buttered dish. Set aside while preparing the sauce.

For the Béchamel sauce: In a saucepan,  melt the butter. Whisk in the flour until smooth and continue to cook for 3 minutes, being careful not to brown. Slowly whisk in the cold milk, and cook, stirring, until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking until the floury taste is gone, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

To finish: Pour the béchamel over the crepes, drizzle with butter, and bake for 20 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Serve hot, with a little tomato passata spooned over the top of each serving.

Cook’s Notes:
You are probably asking yourself, “What is passata?”  Well, passata is basically just an uncooked sauce made with crushed and sieved tomatoes. What makes it so special? Usually, high quality ripe tomatoes are used for passata, resulting in a well flavored tomato base that is generally superior to standard canned tomatoes. Passata is an excellent base for sauces and perfect as a pizza sauce.

Passata is available in Italian delis and specialty gourmet markets. In Europe, passata is widely available in supermarkets. You will find it near the pasta sauces and canned tomatoes. Usually it is sold in a tall jar or a carton. But for some reason, although it is found all over Italy and Europe in general, passata does not seem to be sold widely in the United States. That’s a pity because it’s a great store-cupboard ingredient to have on hand. If you are having trouble getting your hands on passata, you can purchase it online. Amazon stocks good quality Cento Tomato Passata made from Italian San Marzano tomatoes.

How To Make Passata: If you do not have the real thing, you can make a reasonable substitute at home. Use the best quality tomatoes you can find, drain them and sieve or purée in a food processor. But do not use tomato paste, because it is thick, concentrated and highly processed. You can also add salt and other seasonings to taste, like basil or oregano.

Sources:
Orieux, Jean. Catherine de Médicis, ou, La reine noire. Paris: Flammarion, 1986.

Volpe, Anna Maria. “Caterina de Medici: A Tuscan Queen In France.” Caterina de medici, http://www.annamariavolpi.com/caterina_de_medici.html. Date Accessed: 16 December 2016.

All photographs and content are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you so much!

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