Crêpes Farcies à la Viande (from La Cuisine by Francoise Bernard, 2008)
I love crêpes; sweet with lemon and sugar, chocolate and banana, Grand Marnier, buerre salé and caramel… or savoury with cheese and mushroom, cheese and bacon, just cheese (can you tell I love cheese even more than crêpes?), or even plain. I also love the way they sound like a Frenchman saying “crap“.
In possession of a new French cookbook, courtesy of my kind parents, and with a veritable smorgasbord (or whatever a smorgasbord is in French) of recipes to choose from, the book fell open at this one. Rated intermediate (from advanced, intermediate, easy and very easy), I was wondering why. It’s meat. In pancakes. With sauce. Eh?
Well it seems the intermediacy comes from doing everything at once; concurrently attempting to flip a crêpe without sticking it to the floor/the ceiling/a passer-by, stir a butter-flour paste into the sauce without making it lumpy, and make the meat filling with the correct seasoning and consistency. All without leaving the kitchen looking like nuclear war has broken out between the hob and the oven. Tough for a novice like me. (Since this, I have attempted the Île Flottante Pralinée, also rated intermediate, and that was as difficult as calculus and other Very Hard Maths. I can only imagine the advanced recipes require a PhD in quantum physics.)
This is definitely a recipe I’m going to keep on stand-by for those “what shall we eat tonight?” evenings, because despite needing to be some kind of Hindu goddess with four arms (Annapurna perhaps, the Hindu goddess of food and cooking), the processes were simple and the food made up for its lack of finesse by being downright delicious, filling, comforting, happy food. And I reckon you can always make the filling in advance and keep refrigerated so that you only need the standard-issue two arms.
Stuffed crêpes, ready to be smothered in sauce for the oven.
The finished crêpes, supposedly for 4 people but I’m obviously greedier than the French.
Annapurna would have had it all under control. Here, she demonstrates how she can beat (fork), chop (knife) and weigh (scales) all at the same time as commanding a fez-wearing sheep to stay. What a woman.
For the crêpes: 75g plain flour / 175ml milk / 1 egg / 15g butter / 1/4 tsp salt
For the sauce: 30g butter / 50g / bacon / 1 shallot or small onion / 1 garlic clove / 3 tbsp tomato purée / 550ml water / 1 bouquet garni / 1 tsp plain flour / salt & pepper
For the filling: 4 tbsp breadcrumbs / 6 tbsp milk / 150g lean steak mince / 1 shallot or small onion / 1 egg yolk / flat leaf parsley / salt & pepper
Do This (I’ll try to make this as easy as possible)
Crêpes: Whisk ingredients, slowly adding flour to avoid lumps / Cover and stand for 1 hour
Sauce: Cut bacon crossways in 0.5cm strips / 15g melted butter on medium heat / Add bacon & chopped shallot to brown / Add chopped garlic, tomato purée, water, bouquet garni, salt & pepper / Cover, low heat 20 mins
Meanwhile… Preheat oven to 175 degrees C and then…
Filling: Breadcrumbs, mince, chopped shallot, chopped parsley, egg yolk, salt & pepper / Mix by hand
Crêpes again: Brush pancake pan with butter on medium heat / Whisk batter / Add 2-3 tbsp to pan, swirl to coat bottom / Flip when edges begin to brown / Stack on plate
Avengers Assemble!: Butter a gratin dish / Heap a half handful of filling onto each crêpe, roll & place in dish / Remove bouquet garni from sauce & slowly whisk in a mash-up of 15g butter & 1 tsp flour / Pour sauce over crêpes / Oven 20-25 mins