February 24, 2013

French Crêpes

These simple crêpes are the lovely foundation for many different fillings and styles - from Suzette to seafood, from lemon-and-sugar to stacks of savouries sliced into neat wedges. Some particular favourites include a filling of bacon, mushroom, and chicken (topped with parmesan), and tomato, goat cheese, and fresh basil. You can fill them with pretty much anything you like. These ones are filled with a creamy mixture of bacon, chicken, mushrooms, onion, and brandy. The recipe for the filling is below. The filled and baked crêpes heat up wonderfully the next day. Best of all - these are not difficult. They take a little time if you cook one at a time (recommended, to start), but rather low effort, especially once you get the knack of tilting the pan around.

Crêpes (Plain)

Makes 12 crêpes (8" diameter)
Total Prep & Cooking Time: 40 minutes (faster if you can cook two at a time)

3 eggs
1 cup milk (1% is fine)
1 tablespoon oil
3/4 cup unbleached flour

Combine in a blender or food processor until smooth. If you are beating by hand, you may wish to take the extra step of straining the batter once you have finished mixing, to ensure a smooth result.

If you are making a filling, let the batter stand at room temperature until you finish preparing the filling.

Heat a crêpe pan or 8" (20 cm) nonstick skillet over medium heat until a drop of water dances. Spritz with canola oil, or brush lightly with mild oil of your choice.

Using a ladle or scoop that holds 3 tablespoons, measure your first crêpe's worth of batter. Lift the skillet off of the heat (I hold it in the air) and quickly pour the batter into the middle of the pan. Drop the ladle and rapidly tilt the pan in a circular motion, to spread the batter until it evenly covers the base of the pan. Return the pan to the burner, and allow the crepe to cook until lightly golden, and the edges release from the pan, about a minute or two.

Slide a silicone spatula under the crêpe (or grab the edge carefully with your fingers) and flip it over. Let it continue to cook for a minute, and then slide the crêpe onto your work surface for filling.

Repeat until all of the crêpe batter has been cooked.

If I am making baked crêpes, I fill the finished crêpe and place it in a greased baking dish while the next crêpe is cooking, so the process becomes an alternation of tasks. You can also make the crêpes ahead, and fill them all at once. Crêpes keep well in the fridge for a day or so (unfilled, separated by waxed or parchment paper sheets) and can be frozen for up to a month with no ill effect.

Chicken & Mushroom Crêpe filling

Makes enough to fill 12 8-inch crêpes (enough to serve four people)

4 pieces thick cut bacon
2 tablespoons butter
200 grams cremini mushrooms (or mushrooms of your choice)
450 grams cooked chicken breast
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon paste
2 tablespoons brandy
3/4 cup Greek style yoghurt, plain (or sour cream)
2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water
4 teaspoon grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup parsley

Dice the bacon and fry until almost crisp, and remove most of the rendered fat from the pan. Add the butter, chopped mushrooms, and onion, and cook until tender. Add the brandy, and stir through, and then add the chicken paste. Add the water mixed with 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch and stir through, and then the and yoghurt mixed with the remaining 1 teaspoon of cornstarch. Stir and cook until the mixture is reduced to a thick creamy sauce. Add finely diced chicken, and stir through until everything is nicely heated.

Lightly grease a 9x13" baking dish, and preheat your oven to 350 F. On your work surface, lay one crêpe golden-side-down, and place two tablespoons of filling on the bottom third of the circle. Fold the bottom edge up, and then roll the crêpe into a compact cylinder. Place in the baking dish. Repeat until all the crêpes are filled and in the pan - they should just fit nicely, ten across and two side-ways. Any leftover filling can be mixed with the parmesan and parsley, and spooned down the centre of the row of crêpes.

Put the pan of crêpes in the oven for about ten minutes, and then broil for a few more minutes, or until the edges are golden-tinged.

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