When we think of crepes generally what comes to mind is a sweet, fruity dessert topped with fresh whipped cream, such as the famous Crepe Suzette with caramelized sugar, butter, orange and Grand Marnier liqueur. However, savory crepes have been making their way onto American menus for a while now, filled with everything from seafood to spinach.
The word "crepe" is derived from the Latin "crispa", which means "curled", referring to the round crepes being wrapped around their filling making neat little packages. These delicate little unleavened pancakes serve as a great vessel for all sorts of fillings, both sweet and savory.
Crepes are relatively easy to make with a good non-stick pan and a little practice, and can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen for future use. Additional spices, seasonings and fresh herbs can be incorporated into the crepe batter itself, such as the porcini mushroom powder that I have added to this recipe, which amps ups the overall flavor (and classiness factor).
Using this basic crepe batter recipe -- which is Julia Childs and fool-proof -- and the Bechamel sauce recipe, you can let your imagination go wild with flavor combinations, be they sweet or savory
Porcini mushroom crepes with lemon Bechamel
For the crepes:
2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup flour
2/3 cup cold milk
2/3 cup cold water
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for brushing on pan
Grind dried porcini mushrooms in a spice grinder until they make a fine powder. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend thoroughly. If you don't have a blender, whisk together the milk, water, eggs, salt, butter and porcini powder. Add the flour a little at a time and blend thoroughly. Cover batter and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Heat an 8" non-stick saute pan over medium heat and brush with a little butter. Using a 2 ounce ladle filled 3/4 filled with crepe batter, slowly add the batter to the heated pan while simultaneously twisting your pan to distribute batter evenly (this takes a little practice - have patience). Cook the crepe for 2-3 minutes until it releases itself from the pan's surface. Flip the crepe gently using a rubber spatula and cook on the other side for about 30 seconds. Crepes should be lightly golden but not crispy. Slide cooked crepe onto a piece of parchment paper. Repeat this process until all batter is used, stacking the crepes and separating each one with parchment paper.
For lemon Bechamel:
3 cups milk, heated
1/2 stick butter
1 cup (or more) flour
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and white pepper
2 cups chopped mushrooms (I used a combination of button and oyster mushrooms.)
Olive oil, as needed
Saute mushrooms in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes and set aside. In a large sauce pan over medium heat melt the butter and whisk in the flour, making a roux. Cooking the roux, whisking constantly, for about 5 minutes. Add the heated milk, reduce the heat to medium low, and whisk vigorously until sauce is smooth and starts to thicken. Add salt and white pepper to taste and the lemon zest. Add the sauteed mushrooms, reduce the heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
To assemble crepes:
For each serving lay out 2 room temperature crepes side by side. Add approximately 2 oz of hot Bechamel in the middle of each crepe and fold in the sides. Move folded crepes to a plate and top with a little more Bechamel and some sauteed mushrooms. If you want to be really fancy, drizzle the crepes with porcini or white truffle oil.
Top photo: WordRidden via Flickr; bottom photo: Gourmet Food Ideas.