If Yan Could Cook. . .

Crepes: Nutella & Banana Flambé; Ham, Asparagus, & Bechamel Sauce

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My sisters came to visit a few weeks ago. We visited some friends of Germaine, my eldest sister, who made a brunch to die for: crepes with berries and whipped cream, Nutella and bananas flambé, and ham, asparagus, and Bechamel sauce, all with dark, strong coffee. I vowed to recreate it later.

This morning, JP and I ate the first batch of crepes right off the stove. As I found my rhythm, he filled one of the first, sacrificial crepes with Nutella and wrapped it up. He held it out and I took a bite from it, still in his hand, and felt a brief rush of memory, of doing the exact same thing: leaning across and biting into a hot, freshly-made Nutella crepe he held. Wrapped in a paper cone, on the narrow sidewalks of the rue Moufftard in Paris, just as the light fell and the streets filled. A strange thought on a rainy morning in Montreal. Paris like a dream, a cherished fantasy – lovely, exotic, impossible. Impossible that we were there less than a month ago. I’m used to spending my breaks as a houseguest to friends who is always one wrong move away from overstaying her welcome, to traveling alone or with strangers off the Internet, and to road trips with my parents – all scenarios which are fun until they’re not. Paris wasn’t like that: not a moment where I wanted to go home and see everyone else or be productive so I could stop worrying or rest my feet and return to the familiar, not a moment where I wanted to pitch my companion out the window.

Espresso and open sky, low buildings spread far enough apart for the sunlight to get through, to melt the icy, stoic carapace of a long, Canadian winter.

I used a modified version of this crepe recipe, as follows:

Into the blender: 1 1/2 cups whole milk and 3 large eggs. For the first batch, blending after each ingredient, I added: 5 tablespoons of melted butter, 1 tablespoon of vanilla, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1 cup of flour. For the second batch, after the milk and eggs: 1 tablespoon of vanilla, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 cup of flour. The two batches tasted the same to me, and less sugar and butter is good for the heart, if not the soul. This is a very egg-heavy recipe in general, giving the crepes a yellowish tinge and a certain heavy sponginess that I like, but I can see why one wouldn’t.

I used a very large (12″) non-stick pan so that there was lots of room to get around and under the crepes. On medium heat, spread a minimal amount of butter along the bottom of the pan. Add 1/3 of a cup of batter, tilting the pan to spread it around as much and as round as possible before it sets. Wait until it is bubbly and air is forcing the crepe off the surface of the pan, and then you can easily tilt it up to check if the underside is done and flip.

banananutella_13banananutella_23

I took the crepe out of the pan, spread it with Nutella and stacked lengthwise-cut sections of banana in the center, and just closed it on the sides. You could do this right in the pan, but I’m a wimp. For the flambé (of which JP got an awesome picture), I put the finished crepe back in the hot pan, turned the heat off (but it’s an electric stove, so both the element and the pan retained a lot of heat), tossed some good rum on top, and lit it with a long-handled barbecue lighter.

banananutella_fire

For dinner, I used the bit of remaining batter from breakfast and the second batch to make another seven crepes, with still a half-batch left for further adventures. In preparation, I blanched a full bunch of asparagus in boiling water. To make the Bechamel sauce, I minced five gloves of garlic and incorporated them into a roux of white flour and butter (only cooked to a pale yellow), then stirred in more whole milk slowly on low heat to a thick, cottage-cheese consistency.

bechemel_11bechemel_2
hamcrepe_1hamcrepe_2

The majority of the crepes were built as follows: shredded strong white cheddar on the bottom, smoked ham cut into strips, asparagus, and Bechamel sauce. I heated them all in a warm (250 degrees F) oven to bring them up to eating temperature. I think it would be better without the cheese; I also think that a vegetarian version, with just asparagus and Bechamel (and maybe spinach), would still be delicious. My last crepe led me to these two conclusions because we ran out of ham and cheese first.

hamcrepe_final

Making the crepes is easy, but takes a long time. If you can get two pans going, do it. If you can learn to let someone else fill the crepes without your hands itching in a control-freak way, all the better.

Edit: To my surprise, the ham and asparagus crepes are really good the next day for lunch. When cold and congealed (I know that doesn’t sound that appetizing) they hold their shape really well, so you can throw them in your bag and then eat them in hand.

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Written by skimfu

March 11, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Posted in Dessert, Pork

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