Crêpes: A delicious way to always have Paris

by Terry B on April 9, 2008

I’ve been thinking of Paris lately, and that has me thinking of crêpes. And as wonderful as dessert crêpes may be, the savory variety is what I always crave. Recipes for these delightful, paper-thin French pancakes and a satisfying poulet aux champignons [chicken in mushrooms] filling below.

This week, Blue Kitchen is all about France. A couple of events conspired to put me in this state of mind. First, the excellent biopic of French singer Edith Piaf, La Vie en Rose, has come out on DVD [more about this at What's on the kitchen boombox?]. And just last Friday, our friend Cara Black was in town promoting Murder in the Rue de Paradis [An Aimée Leduc Investigation], the latest in her acclaimed series of Paris-based mysteries [more about this at WTF? Random food for thought]. If you’re still hungry for Paris and France when you’ve finished here, you’ll find some interesting links at the end of this post.

A movie and a book got me pointed in the general direction of “something French.” What focused me on crêpes was Ben’s post about strawberry crêpes at What’s Cooking?

For me, crêpes are the ultimate French comfort food—the humble pancake made elegantly thin and filled with all manner of delicious concoctions, both sweet and savory. In Paris, they can even be gotten as street food, an even bigger treat. You get to watch your crêpe be made right in front of you, and then it’s wrapped and ready to eat on the go, as you make your way to your next attraction.

In Chicago, my go to place for crêpes is La Crêperie. This very French little neighborhood bistro opened its doors in 1972 and probably hasn’t been updated since. It has the wonderful, slightly scruffy, tobacco-stained patina that only age can give it. Some days, the food is stellar, others merely dependably good. But given the friendly, unhurried service and charming setting, that’s plenty good for me.

La Crêperie makes two different kinds of crêpes for their sweet and savory offerings. The crêpes for savory main courses are made with buckwheat flour. So when I started looking for recipes, that was one of the ingredients I had in mind. As always, I found numerous recipes, looked for similarities and differences, then created my own.

For the filling, I just knew what I had in mind, my own take on poulet aux champignons—chicken, mushrooms, wine, cream—and winged it. One of the beauties of crêpes, though, is that they are so wonderfully versatile; La Crêperie’s menu includes 15 different fillings that run the gamut from coq au vin to scallops to a chicken curry! So while I’ll give you my recipe below, once you’ve made the crêpes, feel free to experiment away with the fillings.

Crêpe-making equipment strictly optional. Restaurants and street vendors in Paris use special griddles that allow them to make larger crêpes, almost 16 inches in diameter. For home cooks, a 10-inch nonstick skillet will work just fine. What won’t work is a stationary griddle; You need to be able to swirl the pan to spread the batter into a thin layer over the entire bottom.

If you’re really lucky, though, you’ll have a French crêpe pan like this one. As Marion said with a little too much glee to suit me, she’s had it longer than she’s had me. While I’ve seen her use it countless times, I was dubious about my own ability to turn out paper-thin pancakes without the aid of Teflon, so I had a 10-inch nonstick pan at the ready, just in case. Not necessary. The well-seasoned French pan performed beautifully.

Crêpes with Poulet aux Champignons Filling

For the crêpes:
This recipe makes 10 or so 7-inch crêpes [you can freeze leftover crêpes]

3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour [or double the all-pupose flour—see Kitchen Notes]

1 cup whole milk, plus additional, if needed

Canola or other neutral high smoke point oil for cooking

For the filling:
Makes enough to fill 6 crêpes

2-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 generous cups sliced mushrooms [I used Trader Joe's Baby Bellas]
1 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence, divided
1-1/4 cup dry white wine, divided
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup broth [I used Superior Touch's Better Than Bouillon Mushroom Base—you can also use low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth]
2 generous cups cooked chicken, torn/cut into small chunks [see Kitchen Notes]
1/2 cup each, heavy cream and whole milk [or 1 cup whole milk], plus additional milk, if needed

Make the crêpes.
Whisk eggs and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk in all flour until thoroughly blended. Gradually whisk in 1 cup of milk, stirring until completely blended. Cover and let batter rest for at least 1 hour; without this rest, the cooked crêpes will apparently be tough.

Lightly oil a small nonstick skillet or crêpe pan, spreading oil with a crumpled paper towel; heat the skillet over medium-high heat. Ladle about 2 to 3 tablespoons of batter into the skillet with a small ladle or measuring cup, tilting and rotating pan to spread the batter evenly over the entire bottom of the pan. Do this motion as you pour, not afterwards—otherwise, you’ll end up with a thick center.

Cook the crêpe until the underside is lightly browned, about a minute or even less. You’ll see the top side of the crêpe dry out and bubble as it nears doneness; the edges may start to curl or show signs of browning. Carefully loosening an edge of the crêpe with the tip of a spatula, work it under the crêpe and flip it. Cook until the second side is lightly browned, about 20 or 30 seconds or so. Slide the crêpe onto a plate.

If batter doesn’t spread easily to create thin crêpes, whisk in more milk, 2 tablespoons at a time.

If serving immediately, fill and roll or fold the crêpe. Continue to cook crêpes with the remaining batter, oiling the pan as needed and stacking the crêpes as you go. You never want oil standing in the pan, just a nice shine over the entire surface. Cover plate of crêpes with aluminum foil and transfer to warmed oven while you prepare the filling [I had done all the prep work for the filling before starting the crêpes, so they didn't have to spend too much time in the oven].

Make the poulet aux champignons filling.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high flame. Melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter with the olive oil, swirling pan to combine. Sauté mushrooms until they give off liquid and it evaporates, 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of herbes de Provence and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add 1/4 cup wine, and cook until it evaporates. Transfer mushrooms to bowl.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to pan. Sauté onions until softened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and remaining herbes de Provence and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Whisk flour into pan and stir constantly until flour is browned, about 3 minutes, making a quick roux. Gradually whisk in broth and wine, stirring constantly to combine flour and liquid to make a smooth sauce. I find this kind of whisk indispensable for the task.

Stir in chicken and mushrooms and warm through. Stir in cream and milk [or just milk]. If the sauce is too thick, gradually add more milk; but do so sparingly—you don’t want the sauce too runny when you fill the crêpes.

Assemble crêpes.
Lay crêpe on serving plate. Spoon filling down the center and fold sides over it. Repeat. Admire your handiwork, then devour it.

Kitchen Notes

Thanks, Marion! Being a crêpe-making newbie, I relied heavily on her expertise. She made the first few, then turned things over to me. As with pancakes, you sometimes just discard the first one or two. All of ours were usable, but as we went on, they became more beautifully browned.

Buckwheat flour. Although not essential, buckwheat flour gives the crêpes a heartier flavor. According to Marion, it also makes them a little sturdier. You can also substitute whole wheat flour for the buckwheat flour, or just use all-purpose flour.

Sweet crêpes. For sweet crêpes, use 1 cup all-purpose flour, with no buckwheat or whole wheat flour, and add 1 teaspoon of sugar. Don’t use more sugar than that—it will burn.

Already cooked chicken? You can quickly sauté skinless, boneless chicken breasts for this dish. You can also use a store-bought roasted chicken. I pan roasted some chicken thighs, basically following this recipe, but using a skillet on the stovetop instead. After browning the thighs on both sides, I covered the pan to keep the chicken moist. They were done in about 1/2 hour, and three thighs [minus the skin and the bones] supplied the 2 cups needed.

Also this week in Blue Kitchen, 4/9/2008

The dark side of Paris, by way of San Francisco. San Francisco-based mystery writer Cara Black’s Paris-based heroine is half French, half American. It is only fitting, since Cara seems to perpetually have a foot in both cities. You’ll see what I mean, at WTF? Random food for thought.

A double helping of “Little Sparrow.” A DVD and a 30th anniversary two-CD set illuminate the amazing, self-destructive life of French torch singer Edith Piaf. Enjoy some YouTube samples, at What’s on the kitchen boombox?

Hungry for more France? Check out these blogs:

Francophiles in America
French Kitchen in America. Chef’s daughter Mimi cooks up French-accented delights in Wisconsin. She also shares wistful stories of her trips to Paris with her husband and fond memories of her French grandmother’s kitchen.
Cara’s Paris Blog. Quick stories and links to news articles, by mystery writer Cara Black. At her website, you’ll also find Paris photos, her novels and so much more.

An expat in France
Thyme for Cooking. Katie has spent a year in Ireland and seven in Andorra. For the past four years or so, she’s called a little French hamlet half an hour from the Atlantic Coast home. There she cooks and gardens and writes wonderfully about food.

A French expat in America
La Tartine Gourmande. Béa lives with her Irish husband in Boston and writes eloquently in English and in French about food and cooking. All this great writing is accompanied by absolutely exquisite photography.

And finally, a Parisienne in Paris
Chocolate & Zucchini. Scratch any halfway serious blogger and you’ll find someone secretly hoping for a book deal someday. The charming, talented Clotilde already has two! One look at her wonderful writing and photography and you’ll know why.

And now it’s your turn. I’m sure there are many wonderful France-focused blogs out there. If you have any favorites, list them in a comment here. Thanks! Or perhaps I should say, “Merci!”

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben April 9, 2008 at 3:08 am

Those crepes look delicious! Thank you for all the links to improve our crepes skills. I will be checking them out :D

katie April 9, 2008 at 8:23 am

Your crepes are gorgeous! And for the first time…Well done.
The buckwheat flour is traditional for Breton crepes, which is just a wee bit north of us. I have to admit, I have never tried making crepes with it. Since moving here I can pick them up, ready-made at the store and I’ve gotten lazy.
After this I think I’ll dig out my crepe pan (teflon coated and not nearly as well used as Marion’s)
Thanks for the kind words….

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) April 9, 2008 at 11:08 am

Tres bon! We used to have an old crepe place in Boston called The Magic Pan — in many ways it was like the Chicago place you describe, a bit worn but with reliable and sometimes inspired food. Towards the end, the inspiration seems to have fled, leaving behind a tired restaurant that eventually went out of business. I haven’t had a good creamy chicken crepe since.

Kristen April 9, 2008 at 12:33 pm

Okay, I think you’ve almost convinced me I could make crêpes.

Do you think they’re easier/harder to make than pancakes?

bea at La tartine gourmande April 9, 2008 at 1:17 pm

Hi,

Many thanks for your sweet words. And I understand your feel about crêpes. I mean, they are just the best. Your version is really appetizing. For more links on French related things, perhaps check my link page. A lot of sites could be in French, but inspiring all the same. Thanks for celebrating my country ;-)

Terry B April 9, 2008 at 2:55 pm

Ben—Thank you for inspiring me to make crepes! It was a lot of fun.

katie—How luxurious to be able to pick up frozen crepes! I would get lazy too, I think.

Lydia—I remember The Magic Pan too. They had a location here in Chicago as well. Their method for making crepes was a cool gimmick—They would dip the bottoms of presumably magic pans in batter and place them upside down on a circular rack that moved over an open flame, cooking the crepes in the time it took to make one circuit. The Magic Pan has returned, albeit not as a sit-down restaurant and minus the fiery ring. They have two locations, one in suburban Chicago and one in the Mall of America. Somehow less magical, I fear, but the food still sounds good.

Kristen—I don’t know if they’re easier than pancakes, but they’re quite easy. And they’re way sexier.

bea—I’ll definitely have to mine your blogroll. I’m still in a mood for more “Frenchness.”

Jennifer Hess April 9, 2008 at 3:06 pm

Beautiful. I love crepes year-round, but this time of year I really crave them. I think they work so well with spring produce. :)

Chewy April 9, 2008 at 3:36 pm

We started serving buckwheat crepes at my restaurant. We use 1/3 buckwheat flour (stored in the fridge) and 2/3 ap flour.

Alton Brown makes his batter in the blender–have you tried this?

Anyway, I love your crepe pan. That must make cooking them twice as fun.

Terry B April 9, 2008 at 4:40 pm

Jennifer—I actually have some leftover crepes in the freezer, just waiting for the proper filling. Could try some kind of vegetable curry, since curries [of all things] seem to pop up on crepe menus.

Chewy—One of the recipes I looked at called for making the batter in a food processor. I might try that at some point, but honestly, hand whisking wasn’t a big deal, and it made me feel even more like I was making something. And yeah, the pan made the whole process feel very French. Felt like I should have had a cigarette in the corner of my mouth, dropping ashes into the batter.

Patricia Scarpin April 9, 2008 at 4:40 pm

My goodness, I miss Paris! Even though I like Berlin better (and by saying that I expect people to throw rotten tomatoes at me, but that’s fine), Paris is beautiful.
These crepes look delish, Terry.

Kevin April 10, 2008 at 1:47 am

Those savoury crepes look really good and sound tasty!

Terry B April 10, 2008 at 4:50 am

Patricia—I haven’t been to Berlin, so I won’t judge you. But it would have to be pretty spectacular to edge out Paris in my book.

Kevin—Thanks! They were also fairly simple, especially for something that has the ability to wow dinner guests so.

Mimi April 10, 2008 at 12:12 pm

I tried my hand at crepes once, but was an absolute failure. My first exposure to crepes was in your town, Terry B, Chicago. But believe it or not, they were once available here on the tundra, too. We may get a Breton chef in the next month or so, so perhaps they will become a staple here again.

Meanwhile, I’ll dream of Paris in the fall and pore over your post!

Donald April 10, 2008 at 2:14 pm

I’ve yet to get to Paris, but with this dish I can bring a bit to me.

Terry, you’ve made this look really doable. I have a pan, found one on sale several years ago. I just have to find it and dust it off!

Terry B April 10, 2008 at 3:00 pm

Mimi—I’ve seen the lovely stuff you cook. Give crepes another shot; if I can cook them, you certainly can.

Donald—They are totally doable. Dig out that pan. Just make sure you’ve cleaned and seasoned it properly and it should perform just fine for you. Fante’s Kitchen Wares Shop offers these instructions for caring for a crepe pan: “Scrub your new carbon steel pan in hot, soapy water, to remove packing oils, then rinse well and towel dry. Season the pan right after the first washing. Always hand wash with hot [not soapy water] and dry thoroughly; do not place in dishwasher. Lightly oil after drying, using a vegetable or mineral oil. Follow these instructions and the pan will last for generations.” They even offer simple, sensible instructions for seasoning a pan. Most times, we don’t even wash the pan, but just wipe it thoroughly clean with paper towels. This dispenses with the need to oil it too.

Helmut April 11, 2008 at 9:06 am

The crepes look delicious! In Alsace they make a traditional Torte Flambe. This is no a crepe but more like a pizza in form but not ingredients. Popular lately in Germany as Flammenkuchen. Berlin is much liked by many visitors. Find it is not in any way as beautiful as Paris. But is has half the population – if not less and three times the space. Many Parks and lakes. Lost of recreational ground. Then there is Potsdam nearby – by local transport. Palaces and other fascinating spots.

Mike of Mike's Table April 11, 2008 at 12:28 pm

This looks excellent! I’d only (successfully) made crepes once recently, but it was of the sweet persuasion. I’ve been wanting to try a savory crepe and these look reeeeally tempting.

Aimee April 11, 2008 at 5:43 pm

I’m envious of your nice crepe pan, but loving the savory crepes.

Terry B April 11, 2008 at 6:05 pm

Helmut—another thing people may be responding to concerning Berlin is how modern it has become. The same with London. Paris is beautiful beyond belief, but its own mayor has expressed concern over its “museumification.” London, which used to be nice but kind of dowdy, has become a major contemporary art center and center for all things new and hip in general. I’ve heard similar things about Berlin.

Mike—As much as I like sweets, whenever there’s a savory option to something often done as sweets, I’m very intrigued by it.

Aimee—Thanks! Living in Montreal [kind of France with flannel shirts], I bet you have lots of sources for crepes—and French crepe pans, for that matter.

RecipeGirl April 12, 2008 at 12:02 am

Just discovered your blog, and yes… you’ve made me hungry for France. I’ve always been a little intimidated by crepes. Funny that I used to make them long ago when I worked for a caterer, but now at home… I just don’t have the confidence! I’d like to try yours…

Cathy April 13, 2008 at 12:39 am

French comfort food to the rescue! I can’t wait to try these, they sound so rich and delicious (and easy). Nice work straddling the seasons!

Terry B April 13, 2008 at 1:18 am

Welcome to Blue Kitchen, RecipeGirl! I hope you come back for more. And honestly, these were very easy to make—do try it again.

Cathy—Thanks! I think I’m going to be trying the delicious apple gruyere panini you just posted.

Donald April 14, 2008 at 5:00 pm

I appreciate that info Terry. Very Informative.

I’ll have to give them a try this weekend.

Susan from Food Blogga April 18, 2008 at 12:10 am

Those crepes are perfect, Terry. I love savory fillings, but my favorite crepe filling is melted dark chocolate sauce and warm strawberries. Simple but classic and oh-so-good.

Susan at StickyGooeyCreamyChewy April 18, 2008 at 9:19 pm

Paris is my favorite place in the whole world! My husband and I are already dreaming of retiring there. We still have a long way to go. ;)

We must be kindred spirits, because I bought a few of Cara Black’s books a few months ago and I just picked up my La Vie en Rose DVD a few days ago.

Your crepes look lovely! I am really good at eating crepes, but not so good at making them. I love them all, though. Sweet and savory.

Terry B April 18, 2008 at 9:24 pm

Susan—I’m so glad I found your blog and led you to this one. Give these crepes a try; they really are pretty simple.

June C April 19, 2008 at 1:24 am

This is my first visit to your blog and it’s very interesting. I will definitely try to make some crepes. I first had them on a visit to Montreal, Canada. They are delicious

Christina April 19, 2008 at 10:26 pm

Crepes are in regular rotation here. My mom makes them every special weekend–holidays are weekends that my brother and I are home–and we eat them drizzled with melted butter, lemon juice, and powdered sugar. My recipe for crepes is very similar to yours, except I use only AP flour and nonfat milk instead of whole milk (for me, I end up with thinner, more tender crepes with lower fat milk). My mom and I never use sugar in the batter. I don’t know why, we just never have.

I love your filling recipe here. I’ll have to make this, and soon.

You’re the 40zillionth person to tell me that La Vie en Rose is excellent. I have to remember to put in my Netflix. I’ll go do that now.

cameronpark April 20, 2008 at 2:27 am

Your food looks incredible!! First time visitor and I’ll be back for more!

Hélène April 22, 2008 at 6:04 pm

The French we love crêpes. I love your pictures.

Mandy April 23, 2008 at 11:37 pm

I first fell in love with buckwheat pancakes in Brittany, France. Crepes are their regional specialty. I have always wanted to make them in the U.S. but have never been brave enough. I suggest goat cheese with walnuts in the buckwheat crepes.

Excellent post and pics!

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