Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dinner Crepes

Crepes are an ideal meal to make in stages; you can start the batter in the morning then cook the crepes when you are ready to make dinner. Alternately, you can cook and freeze crepes for later use; they defrost quickly in room temperate. I have a tendency to make crepes when I have other things going on - in this case I am also making our bi-weekly batch of cat food - so they seem to be very tedious. I have decided that I am overwhelming myself by trying to multitask rather than focusing on the crepes.

Anyway, these crepes were delicious and it was such a large batch that the effort will save me from one night of meal planning. If you are making these for a dinner party, it really is ideal because you can make ahead of time and simply warm up in the oven when the time is right. Alternately, you could even freeze half the batch and stick away for some night when you want a quick meal, home-cooked meal.

Crepe batter is best when it is given the good part of the day to sit; the flour has more time to absorb the liquid. In the morning, I decide that crepes will be good for dinner and make the batter right after breakfast. I take my blender and measure 1 cup of milk, 1/3 cup of water into it then I add two large eggs, 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Once all the ingredients are in the blender, I put the lid on the jar, put it on the base and blend until smooth for about 5 seconds. I put the blender jar directly in the refrigerator and leave it there until I am ready to cook later tonight. (At the very least the batter should sit for an hour; two is preferable. It can last for up to 24 hours.)

Ideally, you do need a crepe pan since you can more easily judge the size and thinness of the crepe with it. I try to avoid buying kitchen gear that serves only one purpose but in this case I find it necessary. Although to make myself feel better I sometimes use it to make pancakes too. I find making the crepes themselves to be the fun part and they bring back memories of my high school French class when we made them for a fundraiser. My teacher brought in her electric crepe maker and showed us how to make them.
To set yourself up, have a plate handy in which to place the crepes once cooked. You want to have your pan on a burner set to medium-high heat. You will need a paper towel lightly coated with butter (you can use any type of oil but butter is preferable to achieve the right browning); you will brush this lightly over the surface of the pan so that the metal is shiny but you don't want any sizzling butter or oil. Pick the pan up off of the burner and pour 2-3 tablespoons of batter for a (6 or 7 inch pan; 1/4 cup for a 9 or 10 inch pan) on the pan while tilting and rotating to spread the batter to the edges of the pan- coating the pan's surface.

Cook until almost dry on top and lightly browned on the edges; about a minute. Loosen the edges of the crepe from the pan with a metal spatula and then flip the crepe over and cook for another 15 seconds or so. Turn the crepe onto the clean plate and continue the process until all the batter is used; continue stacking the crepes.

I used a filling from this cookbook called Crepes; Sweet and Savory Recipes for the Home Cook. The filling is chicken, sweet corn and red pepper - I have almost all the ingredients except fresh ginger, fresh corn on the cob and Monterey jack cheese but I decided to try it out. I have frozen, sweet corn and a four cheese blend of shredded cheese from my lasagna last week; close enough.

I start by poaching 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts in about an inch of water with half of an onion and some salt. I simmer this over low heat for about 10-15 minutes. I then remove the chicken and let cool so that I can dice it a bit later. I also place 1 1/2 to 2 cups of frozen corn in enough water to cover it, bring it to a boil and then drain.

Simultaneously, as the chicken and corn are cooking I start assembling the rest of the filling. I dice half of a red pepper (about 1/2 cup) and one green onion (an alternate ingredient is to use a shallot). In a small skillet, I add a scant 1 tablespoon of olive oil, heat it over medium heat and saute the pepper and green onion for about 2-3 minutes.

In a medium-sized bowl, I mix 1 large egg, 3/4 cup of ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup shredded cheese, 2 minced garlic cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon of dried sage. I will add the diced chicken, corn, peppers and green onions to this mixture and blend it all. Finally, I will add salt and pepper to taste. (I tend to under salt when I cook because I prefer salty foods and don't want to go overboard.)

I preheat my oven to 350 degrees and prep a 10 x 13 baking dish by spraying it with a bit of olive oil spray. Then I assemble the crepes; I put in one to two heaping tablespoons of filling for each crepe and fold it like an envelope to completely enclose the filling. I arrange them in the baking dish as I go, spray the whole thing with a bit more olive oil spray, sprinkle the whole pan with 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until heated through. I simply served these crepes with no side dish - a bit of salad would be a nice accompaniment.

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