Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Cannelloni with Crepes


Many are familiar with cannelloni being made using pasta but there is a whole contingent that feel superb cannelloni is made with crepes. I like both ways but the crepe seems to deliver a more delicate dish. If you are making this for a party, I strongly suggest doing it at least a day ahead and even in stages. There are a whole lot of parts to make but taking the time makes for an amazing presentation and truly satisfying 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. Using a large blender (or split the recipe and do it in batches): measure 2 cup of milk, 2/3 cup of water into it then add four large eggs, 2 cup of all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 4 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 the crepes. (At the very least the batter should sit for an hour; two is preferable. It can last for up to 24 hours.)

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MAKING CREPES
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. To set yourself up, have a cooling rack (such as you would use for cookies) 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 spatula and then flip the crepe over and cook for another 15 seconds or so. Turn the crepe onto the cooling rack and continue the process until all the batter is used; continue stacking the crepes. This recipe should make about 16 or 20-6 inch crepes.

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MAKING THE MEAT SAUCE
Heat a 1/4 cup of olive oil in a saucepan and add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped onion. Saute until golden; add 12 ounces of lean ground beef and turn the burner down to medium low. Cook the meat without browning. Crumble the meat as it cooks using a fork. When it loses its red raw color, cook it for one more minute without letting it brown. Add 2 teaspoon of salt and 1 cup of chopped canned tomatoes with their juice. Cook at the barest simmer for 45 minutes.

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MAKING THE FILLING
Heat a 1/4 cup of olive oil in a saucepan and add 3 tablespoons of finely chopped onion. Saute until golden; add 12 ounces of lean ground beef and turn the burner down to medium low. Cook the meat as you did above - without browning. Transfer the meat to a fine mesh colander and let the fat drain away.

When it is drained, place in a medium-sized bowl and add the following ingredients:
  • 3 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 cup of mortadella (Italian bologna) or unsmoked ham
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 cups Parmesan cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups of ricotta cheese

Mix all the ingredients thoroughly, taste and correct salt if necessary. Set aside for when it comes time to assemble.

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MAKING THE BECHAMEL SAUCE

Heat 4 cups of milk until it comes to the edge of a boil. Meanwhile, in a large enameled saucepan, heat a stick of butter (8 tablespoons). When the butter is melted add 6 tablespoons of flour and stir constantly. Let the flour and butter bubble for 2 minutes but do not let it color/brown.

Turn off the burner and remove the skin from the top of the hot milk. Using a whisk or wooden spoon stir the flour mixture constantly while adding 2 tablespoons of milk at a time. Before adding more milk, make sure that what you added is incorporated into the mixture. After you have done this four times (added the equivalent of 1/2 cup of milk) you can start adding 1/4 cup of milk at a time.

When all the milk has been incorporated, turn the burner on again to low, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and, while stirring constantly, cook until the sauce is as dense as thick cream.

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ASSEMBLY & COOKING
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Take a bake and serve pan 9x14 inches and butter the bottom.

Take a crepe and place about 2-3 tablespoons of filling down the middle then roll into a "flute." Place this into the prepared pan and repeat the process until you have filled all the crepes and/or finished the batter. Squeeze the cannelloni in tightly but do not stack.

Spread the meat sauce over the cannelloni, coating evenly. Spread the bechamel sauce over this. Sprinkle with 2/3 cups of Parmesan cheese and dot with about 1/4 cup of butter. Bake on the next highest rack in the oven for approximately 15 minutes, or until a light brown crust forms on the top. (Do not cook more than 20 minutes regardless.)

Allow to settle for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. The cannelloni is a very rich dish so goes well with a nice green salad or bruschetta mix (without the bread).

1 comment:

Eleanor said...

I love to make this cannelloni. I make a meat and artichoke filling with a tomato bechamel sauce. However after I read Marchella Hazen's version, I Now spread the filling out evenly on each crepe and roll up like a jelly roll. It makes for a lighter dish.

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