I used to make savory crepes all the time, and do not know why I ever fell out of the habit. The basic premise is that you create a stack of crepes and complementary fillings, and then bake for a brief period in the oven. The process is easier than it appears and the results are delicious. Crepes freeze well and can be made well ahead of time. You also have lots of opportunities to get creative around sauces and filling.
Making Savory Crepes
I have always used Julia Child’s recipe, which offers the following proportions to make two dozen or so crepes:
1 cup cold water
1 cup cold milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
4 tbsp melted butter
Julia places the liquids, egg and salt into a blender, and then adds the flour and then butter. I just whisk it together (in that order) by hand. You might be surprised at how thin the batter is, but that is correct — to quote Julia, it should just “coat a wooden spoon.” Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Making the Crepes I’ve never actually owned a proper crepes pan, and do not let that stop you. In the era before non-stick pans, I used a small frying pan and oil. Now I just use a six inch non-stick pan (see the picture below).
We’ll see if I horrify professionally-trained Zen, but here is my approach: heat up the pan on a medium to medium-high flame, and hold it in one hand. With the other hand, scoop out about 2/3 to 3/4 of batter in a soup spoon. Pour into the pan and very quickly rotate and tilt the pan around with your wrist (kind of like a spinning top that is losing momentum), so that the batter spreads out across the pan surface evenly. You want just enough batter to fill the bottom of the frying pan.
Place the pan on the heat for 1 to 2 minutes. The bottom should lightly brown. Gently lift and edge of the crepe with a spatula, then scoop under and flip. Cook for another 30 to 90 seconds (depends on heat of pan). Then place on a wire rack to cool for a couple of minutes before stacking, and repeat the process.
It might take a couple tries at first to get the right amounts of batter and motion, but once you have the hang of it, it is fast and easy.
Making your Fillings
To complete your meal, you need to decide upon your crepes filling(s). You can go vegetarian or add meat. You can work with tomato sauces, white sauces, cheeses, or whatever strikes your fancy. If you have Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, her suggested filling recipes are marvelous. In this case, I made two simple fillings: a chard and parmesan layer and a mushroom, leek and cream cheese layer.
1 bunch chard, stems finely chopped, leaves roughly chopped
1 tbsp butter
splash of vermouth
grated parmesan cheese
For the chard, I chopped and sauted /4 of an onion for a couple of minutes in a tbsp of butter and a splash of olive oil, on medium-low heat, then added the chard stems, finely chopped. After a few minutes, add the chard leaves (roughly chopped), cover, and let cook for several minutes more. Like spinach, the chard leaves will reduce in size. Add a splash of white wine or vermouth, and let cook until the leaves are fully tender, and taste for salt and pepper. After spreading this filling on the crepe, add a layer of grated parmesan cheese.
Mushroom, Leek and Cream Cheese Filling
1 leek, white and light green portion, halves and finely sliced
1/4 onion, chopped
handful of white button or cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 tbsp cream cheese
1 tbsp butter
pinch of ground nutmeg
salt and pepper
You can cook this at the same time as the chard. Place a tbsp of butter and a splash of olive oil in a pan and saute the onions and leeks on medium-low heat until softened, around 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms, a pinch of ground nutmeg and a little salt and pepper. Once the mushrooms are fully cooked, remove from heat and stir in the cream cheese.
Making Your Stack
Pre-heat your oven to 350F.
In a lightly-buttered baking dish, put down two crepes (for two different stacks). On this bottom crepe, smooth out some of the chard filling and sprinkle grated cheese on top. Then place another crepe on the stack and spoon out some of the mushroom and leek filling. Layer another crepe with chard filling, then a crepe with mushroom filling, and finally top with a final crepe and sprinkle more cheese on top.
In this case, I did not have a wet tomato or bechamel sauce, so the top crepe became quite crispy, but if you do make a wet sauce, save some from your mixes so you can ladel on the top of your stack.
Place the baking dish in the upper third of the pre-heated 350F oven and bake for about 25 minutes. To serve, you can cut into wedges or just place the entire stack on a plate.