Crepes are such a romantic food. My first encounter with them was on a trip to Barcelona when I was studying abroad after high school. They were selling them at a little cart at the beach, and my friends insisted I try one. Filled with nothing but Nutella, they were enormous. And they were heavenly. Thin and delicate, yet sturdy enough to hold the chocolatey hazelnut spread within it. I loved the crispy little edges, too. We sat on the dock eating them, allowing our feet to dangle over the edge, barely tickling the Mediterranean. I was determined to learn how to make crepes before leaving Barcelona and enrolled in a culinary class with some friends. Our instructor decided to teach us how to flip them in the pan with a swift flick of the wrist, and my all-too-eager friend jumped at the challenge. The next thing we knew, we had a buttery crepe stuck to the newly painted ceiling of our culinary instructor's apartment. It eventually fell, but not without leaving a perfect grease circle in its wake. Oops.
I have had quite a few crepes since then, but my favorite has been from the French inspired Cafe L'Aube here in Philadelphia that serves a beautiful buckwheat crepe with ham, egg, and Emmentaler cheese. The buckwheat gives the crepe an earthiness and robustness that I love. I was inspired to try my own buckwheat crepe at home, relying on a few tips from my crepe-making lesson in Barcelona to create ever so thin pancakes with crispy edges. I branched out with the filing too, incorporating spring vegetables and a fresh local goat's milk cheese. I served a medium-boiled egg alongside the crepe and found myself cutting pieces of egg and pieces of crepe to make the perfect little bite. A plate of these really made me feel like I was at a European cafe, if only temporarily.
A few things to make note of while you cook. For one, take the time to wash the chard and drain it well. You want to eliminate any grit and sand that so often sticks to chard leaves. I use goat cheese here because it offers a nice tang to the heavier, earthier vegetables, but just about any cheese would do, but be sure to mix it into the filling while it is hot so that it melts well. The batter can be made a day ahead, and stored in the refrigerator, and the cooked crepes can be frozen for up to a month with parchment paper slices in between to prevent sticking.
Buckwheat Crepes with Mushroom and Chard Filling
8 Buckwheat Crepes (see recipe below)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thinly sliced
1/2 pound chard leaves (stems removed**), washed, dried and sliced into 1/2 inch ribbons (about 6 cups)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup pecorino romano for sprinkling, optional
4 hard-boiled eggs for serving, optional
Heat oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat until butter has melted. Add shallots and sweat for 2 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes or until mushrooms have released liquid and being to brown around the edges. Add the cleaned chard. Mix to combine and cook for 8 minutes or until chard has wilted. If there is a lot of liquid remaining in the pan and the chard and mushrooms are cooked, briefly drain it and return mixture to pan. Turn off the heat. While the mixture is hot, add the goat cheese and stir to combine. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper. Set aside.
Toast the walnuts. Place the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat and toast for 8-10 minutes, shaking often, or until walnuts are toasted. Add half of the toasted walnuts to the mushroom and chard mixture and stir to combine.
Set up your assembly station. Place one crepe on the surface, sprinkle with about 2-3 tablespoons of the vegetable and nut mixture. Roll up and place seam side down on a plate. Complete with the remaining filling and remaining crepes. Sprinkle with the remaining toasted walnuts, grated pecorino romano, if using, and serve with a hard-boiled egg. Enjoy! Serves 4 people.
**You can use the stems to make my Pickled Chard Stems recipe for sprinkling on any grain salad or rice bowl.
2 cups buckwheat flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 cups milk (I used 2%)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, for cooking
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender, except the 1-2 tablespoons of butter for cooking. Blend for 30-45 seconds or until smooth. Pour the mixture into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour or even overnight. Allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before proceeding.
Heat a 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon of butter to the skillet, swirling to coat. I use a pastry brush to make sure the butter is evenly distributed. Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop the batter and pour it into the pan. Work quickly to swirl the batter all over the pan to create a thin even layer. The first and maybe even second crepe are usually far from perfect as you are still finding a rhythm and finding the right temperature. So do not give up! You can see my first failed attempt in the picture below. Cook the first side about 1 minute or until the edges of the crepe begin to pull away from the pan and then flip to cook the other side about 20 seconds. I use a spatula and my fingers to usually do this. When the crepe is done, move to a plate and continue with the rest of the batter, buttering the pan as necessary. I usually have to re-butter the pan every 2-3 crepes.
You can use the crepes immediately, stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, or the crepes can be stored in the freezer for about a month with a piece of parchment in between them to prevent sticking. If you want to melt more cheese on them, you can do so like you would a quesadilla. Place the crepe in a hot skillet, layer on the cheese or other fillings and wait for the cheese to melt. Remove it from the skillet, roll or fold, and enjoy! Make about 12-15 crepes, depending on how many you end up using as practice :)