Sunday, February 20, 2005

Crepes with a savory chicken and cheese sauce filling

This week has been a good one for food here at Rhosgobel; chocolate tortes, truffles, jambalaya, and crepes were all on the menu. My SO hasn't divulged the recipe for the truffles yet, so this week's end-of-the-week recipe blogging post will feature the crepes.

I first learned about crepes in a junior high school class called "Introduction to Languages." The class covered Japanese, French, Spanish, and German (if I remember correctly), and during the French unit we watched a video on French food that featured a recipe for crepes. I scribbled the recipe down, made it at home with my folks soon afterwards, and have been making variants on it ever since.

The recipe I now use for the crepes is modified from Joy of Cooking, and the chicken filling I include below is a modified version of the one I learned about way back in junior high. The chicken sauce is nothing fancy, but both my SO and I agree that it makes a great savory filling for the crepes.

Included below are recipes for the crepes and the chicken filling, along with detailed cooking instructions for the crepes.

Crepe batter:
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
4 large eggs
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, melted
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch salt

1 pound chicken (we use boneless skinless thighs)
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
Salt and pepper (~1/4 teaspoon each), plus some salt to sprinkle on the chicken
2 cups grated cheddar cheese

To make the crepe batter:
1) Add all the ingredients for the crepe batter to a blender or food processor and blend or process until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary.
2) Refrigerate the mixture for at least 30 minutes before cooking.

To make the filling:
1) Bake your chicken as appropriate for the cut you have on hand. We typically use frozen boneless, skinless thighs, and bake them according to the package directions (30-35 minutes from frozen at 400F, covered with foil for the first 20 minutes). I like to sprinkle the chicken with a little salt before it cooks.
2) Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut it into small cubes (approximately 1 cm^3).
3) Make a white sauce with the butter, flour, and milk, using your own method or following the directions in steps 3a, 3b, and 3c.
3a) Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, then add the flour and stir until it forms a paste-like consistency.
3b) Cook the flour-butter paste over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until it smells a bit nutty and gets a bit browner (but doesn't burn).
3c) Add the milk in several small increments, stirring constantly and not adding more milk until the milk from the prior addition has been fully incorporated. At the end of this you should have a thick, creamy sauce; if you want the sauce to be thicker, let it simmer for a bit. One of the fun things to observe is that the butter and flour mixture should actually get thicker after adding your first bit of milk, not thinner.
4) Add the chicken, grated cheese, salt, and pepper to the white sauce, mix until the cheese is melted, and check the salt level. Maintain over low heat until ready to serve.

To cook the crepes:
Cooking crepes takes a bit of practice, so don't worry if your crepes don't look like a professional chef's on the first try; what's more important is that they taste good, aren't burned, and can be filled with tasty fillings.
0) Get out your supplies and arrange them around the stove. You'll need a pan, the crepe batter, a measuring device for the batter (a 1/8 or 1/4 cup measurer works well), a spatula to flip the crepes with, a plate to put the crepes on once they're cooked, and a paper towel or two to clean up the inevitable drips of crepe batter.
1) Heat a small to medium non-stick pan over medium or medium-high heat, adding a little butter or oil to the pan before cooking the first crepe.
2) When the pan is warm, add about 2 tablespoons (1/8 cup; half of a 1/4 cup measurer) of crepe batter to the pan, then rotate the pan to distribute the batter into a circle. To do this I have the crepe batter on my left, and my pan on the stove to my right; I hold the crepe pan in the air with my right hand while simultaneously pouring the batter into the pan from the 1/8 cup measurer in my left hand. Then I swirl the pan using primarily my right wrist and put the pan back on the heat to cook. All combined, this step should take only a few seconds.
3) Once the top of the crepe is no longer liquid and shiny, flip the crepe with a spatula; the crepe should be nicely browned on the first side. I find it often helps to slide the edge of the spatula under the edge of the crepe around its entire circumference before attempting to flip the crepe.
4) Once the second side is lightly browned, slide the crepe out of the pan onto a waiting plate. Look the crepe over to see how it turned out, and adjust the cooking time and the stove's heat level based on this inspection (e.g. if they're browning too quickly, turn the heat down). I have an electric stove with only a few heat settings, so I often find myself switching between two heat levels on the stove to maintain the optimum cooking temperature.
5) Continue cooking (steps 2-4) until you've made as many crepes as you want.
6) Bring the cooked crepes and the sauce to the table, and let everyone fill their crepes as they desire. Having preheated plates can be nice, as the crepes are thin and cool quickly.

When I cook the crepes I use two pans simultaneously, to help speed up the process, but I'd recommend sticking with just one pan until you have the technique down.

These crepes are good with both savory fillings (like the one above) and sweet fillings (e.g. jams or preserves); we'll often finish our meal by having a few crepes with a jam filling. If you want to fill the crepes with only sweet fillings, you can make sweet crepes by increasing the sugar and decreasing the salt in the crepe batter.

This recipe makes enough crepes and filling for my SO and I to have two full meals. We'll commonly cook up about half the crepe mixture the day we make the dish, and then save the rest of the batter to cook the next day.

1 comment:

Radagast said...

Importing comments:

If you do make the recipe, I'd love to hear what you think of it!
February 21, 2005, 3:10:13 AM PST – Like – Reply

That looks good, I emailed the recipe to my wife (no printer on the laptop)so we can give it a try.
February 20, 2005, 6:54:39 PM PST