It's so great when you try something new and it turns out as good as you hoped it would -- or sometimes, even better than you expected.
I have a cookbook that is all about potatoes and vegetables. It's a strange small format book, and thick at the same time, so it's almost cube shaped. And it has lots of nice pictures. I think I picked it up on the discount table at a bookstore. But it has lots of wonderful recipes inside, and I go to it for ideas.
So the other day I opened it up to a page that had a recipe for vegetable-stuffed crepes. Now I'm not one to just follow the recipe religiously, and this was no exception. I used it as a jumping-off point. But I did use all the elements: crepes, vegetable and chicken stuffing, and cheese sauce.
While it was a bit of a production, it turned out to be well worth it, so I'm posting it today to share with all you food lovers out there. Try it out, you will not be disappointed.
Vegetable and Chicken Filling:
1 large sweet yellow pepper
1 medium onion
8 medium white mushrooms
3/4 to 1 lb skinless chicken breast
Chop all of these into 1/2-inch cubes, more or less. Bite sized, small enough to stuff into crepes without being too bulky.
Place 2 Tbsp. each of olive oil and butter in a large frying pan. Add freshly ground black pepper and a few sprinkles of dried sage. Sauté the mushrooms, making sure not to burn the butter, remove from the pan and set aside. Add another 1 Tbsp each olive oil and butter to the pan, more freshly ground black pepper and sage, and sauté the pepper and onion until the onions are starting to become translucent, again being careful not to let it get too hot and burn the butter, and also stopping before the yellow pepper becomes limp. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add another 1 Tbsp each of olive oil and butter, more freshly ground pepper and sage, and sauté the chicken until it is just cooked all the way through. Now add the vegetables back into the pan with the chicken, add a scant teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, a dash of crushed red pepper (1/8 tsp -- just a little accent), and 1 to 1-1/2 tsp cumin (again, just an accent). Cook them over medium heat for another couple of minutes to meld the seasonings, and salt to taste.
2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
3/4 cup stock (vegetable or chicken) (*) See note, below
3/4 cup milk (or milk and half-and-half)
1 cup cheese (I used Pepper Jack)
2 Tbsp freshly chopped cilantro
Dash freshly ground nutmeg
Make the roux by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then adding the flour, making it all evenly mixed and continuing to cook until the flour begins to toast just a bit. In the meantime, combine the stock and the milk and heat them to scalding temperature either in another saucepan or in the microwave. When the flour is toasted and the liquid is hot, pour the liquid all at once into the flour mixture and immediately begin whisking vigorously to mix and prevent lumps. Cook for another couple of minutes until it thickens. Now add 2/3 cup of the cheese and the nutmeg and cilantro, whisking until the cheese melts. Remove from heat and taste, adding salt if necessary. I never add salt before adding cheese, because the cheese itself is salty and you may need none at all. Set the sauce aside, covering the pan.
(*) I took out a jar of vegetable trimmings from the freezer, placed them in 6 cups of water, and let them simmer for about an hour, until the water was down to 4 cups or so and the broth was dark and rich (leek trimmings, onion ends, sweet pepper, zucchini, mushroom ends). While I was trimming the chicken pieces, I put any trimmed veiny or tendony parts right into the broth. Then I strained the broth, used it for the cheese sauce, and saved and froze the rest.
Crepes are so easy, I have to ask myself why I don't make the more often!
3/4 cup flour
pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
1-1/2 cup milk
Whisk the egg and milk together. Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl, stirring or sifting them to mix. Now pour the liquid into the flour mixture all at once and whisk vigorously until the batter is well mixed and smooth (a few small lumps don't matter).
Now heat a non-stick or cast-iron frying pan and add a little butter or olive oil and let it spread evenly around the pan. When it is hot enough, pour about 1/6 of the batter into the pan and move the pan around until it has formed a thin even coat over the bottom. You'll have to get a feel for this -- you don't want it hot enough to burn the butter or oil, but you want it hot enough to start cooking the batter immediately. If there are a couple of holes where the batter did not fill in, don't worry about it -- you'll see. Cook the crepe about 1-1/2 minutes on the first side, until the top is starting to set (no more runny batter), then flip it and cook on the other side for 1/2 to 1 minute more. Remove from the frying pan and set aside; continue cooking crepes until you've cooked all 6 of them.
Now we're ready to assemble the dish. Lightly oil an ovenproof baking dish. Spoon about 1/6 of the vegetable and chicken filling on a crepe, roll it up and place it in the baking dish. Do the same with all 6 crepes, hopefully they will fit snugly in the dish, one right next to the other. Note: if you end up with some leftover filling, just go ahead and sprinkle it on the dish of rolled crepes. Now, pour the cheese sauce over the crepes, and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
Finally, place the dish of stuffed crepes under a preheated broiler and broil for 4 to 5 minutes, until the cheese on top is bubbling and starting to brown. Remove from heat, let stand a few minutes and serve, carefully removing one crepe at a time for each plate.
Okay, yes, it was a fair amount of work. But it wasn't expensive, made enough to feed 4 people easily, and was wonderfully healthy and tasty. Hard to beat!