Ah, crêpes. These golden little canvases wait in eager anticipation ready to be painted with tantalizing sweets in order to play the role of dessert, or filled with savory, earthy goodness for the part of main course. For me, crêpes inspire whimsical daydreams of European afternoons. I imagine strolling down a Parisian boulevard, fiery-red striped scarf around my neck, taking bites of a fresh strawberry crêpe piled high with chantilly cream held on a paper plate; or walking alongside the banks of the Vltava River on a drizzly day in brooding Prague, umbrella in one hand, fresh, hot, herbed chicken crêpe wrapped in parchment in the other, coal-grey trench coat fluttering dramatically behind me in the wind. Oh, the romance!
These thin little “skins” have long held a special place in my heart because they represent familiarity and stoke my sentimental side. They are that “something unique” that my mother would often prepare whenever her sweet tooth would present itself. As a child, I would know mom was in the kitchen preparing crêpes, or as they are called in Slovakia “palacinki”, as the air in the house would take on a familiar, browned-butter-in-a-frying-pan aroma. My mother, who at times could be notorious for walking away from a pan to quickly try to multitask, would often return to a crêpe a bit on the “done” side, to her chagrin. Still, they were tasty because they were mammas, filled not only with culinary goodness, but her love. What a perfect little package. She preferred to prepare her “palacinki” a bit on the thicker side since it gave them some extra bite. She would fill them with a European-style preserve, perhaps a little chocolate but mainly fruit, like strawberries or apricots, roll them thinly and top them with home-made whipped cream. And when she’d really be craving the familiar coziness of a European cafe, she’d add to it all a cup of Vienna-style coffee topped with fluffy cream to experience a little taste of home.
Crêpes find their place among those quintessential European comfort foods with amazing personality. Hot off the pan, they warm the belly and the soul with their soft goodness, wrapping around whatever one’s mind can imagine as a filling. Whether it’s a bit of seasoned meat with herbs and vegetables, spooned into their middle with a savory sauce to finish, or a sweet filling, they hold it all with style. Their flavor is simple and they support. Whatever seasoning is added to the batter, if any, is meant to highlight the “star” they hold within them and to compliment it; perhaps a splash of vanilla or rum, or a pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon when it’s something sweet -maybe some freshly ground black or white pepper, or finely chopped fresh herbs for a savory wrap-up.
I love the moments that lend themselves to a little escape into the imagination where taste buds can lead the way; and when it’s something uniquely simple that I crave, I love to go back to the pan to make these tasty little canvases to enjoy both the sweet and savory side of a possibility-filled creation.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Savory Herbed-Chicken Crêpes with Mushroom Sauce
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Crêpe batter ingredients: (makes 12 crepes, serves about 4)
2¼ cup milk
1½ cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted (plus 3 tablespoons for pan)
Herbed Chicken Filling ingredients: (serves about 4-6)
4 tablespoon olive oil
½ onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cooked and minced
½ cup petite peas
½ cup fresh spinach leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Salt/pepper to taste
Mushroom Sauce ingredients: (serves about 4-6)
4 cups milk, hot
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ounces butter (1/2 stick)
2 ounces flour (about ¼ heaping cup)
1 cup sautéed mushrooms
2 teaspoon fresh thyme
-Prepare the crêpe batter by whisking all ingredients in a large bowl until silky smooth, or use a blender and puree until smooth; strain and place into refrigerator to chill for 20 minutes.
-Prepare the Herb Chicken filling heating a large pan over medium heat and adding the olive oil; add the onion and sweat for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic until fragrant; next add the sliced mushrooms and allow to sauté for a several minutes; add the cooked and minced chicken breast, the peas, the spinach, the fresh thyme and salt/pepper to taste; remove from heat and keep warm.
-Prepare the Mushroom Sauce by pouring the milk into a small pot along with the minced garlic and some salt/pepper to taste, and set it over medium-low heat to bring to the simmer; while milk heats, place another small pot over medium-low heat and add the butter; when melted, add the flour, and stir to combine; cook the butter/flour roux for a minute to cook out the raw taste; next add the hot milk into the flour/butter roux, whisking the whole time to keep lumps from forming, and allow the sauce to thicken for a couple minutes; add the sautéed mushrooms, the pinch of nutmeg and salt/pepper to taste to the sauce, and remove from heat; keep warm.
-Prepare the crêpes by heating a small, non-stick pan over medium-high heat; using a pastry brush, add a small coating of the 3 tablespoons of melted butter to the pan, then pour a 2 ounce amount of the batter into the pan, swirling gently to form a thin layer; allow to set for about 30 seconds or until light-golden on the bottom; using a spatula, gently pull the edges away from the pan and flip the crêpe over, allowing to cook for about 20 seconds more; remove crêpe from pan and place onto a plate to hold; repeat process until all batter is used, making about 12 crêpes; keep warm.
-Fill 2 crepes with Herb Chicken filling, roll, and top with Mushroom cream sauce.
Buttered-Rum Banana Crêpes with Chocolate Ganache Sauce and Chantilly Whipped Cream
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Crêpe Batter (see above)
Chantilly Whipped Cream
Ingredients: (makes about 3-4 cups whipped cream)
8 ounces heavy whipping cream, cold
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoon sugar
Chocolate Ganache Sauce
Ingredients: (makes about 1 cup of sauce)
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
4 ounces for heavy cream
Ingredients: (serves about 4)
2 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon brown sugar
2 sliced bananas
2 tablespoon dark rum
1 teaspoon vanilla
-Prepare the crepe batter by whisking all batter ingredients in a large bowl until silky smooth, or place into blender to blend; strain batter into clean bowl, and place into refrigerator for 20 minutes to chill.
-Begin by preparing the Chantilly Whipped Cream by whipping the cold cream with a mixer on high speed; once cream begins to thicken slightly, add the vanilla and then, slowly, the sugar; whip until peaks form, and hold cold in fridge.
-Prepare the Chocolate Ganache sauce by placing the chocolate into a small bowl set over a pot with hot water; stir gently, and allow the chocolate to melt; add the cream and stir to combine until incorporated and chocolate becomes glossy and smooth; keep warm.
-Prepare the Buttered-Rum Banana filling by placing a small pan over medium heat; add the butter and the brown sugar, and allow to melt together stirring gently; add the sliced bananas and allow to caramelize for a moment; remove pan from flame for a moment while the rum is added next (or flambé if you wish), then return pan back to flame; finish by adding the vanilla, fold to combine, and keep warm.
-Fill the crêpe with the Buttered-Rum Banana filling, roll, then top with a drizzling of the Chocolate Ganache sauce and a dollop of the Chantilly cream.