Tuesday, March 13, 2012

memories of france

So I’m late again. Here I am posting about pancakes a few weeks after Pancake Tuesday. A couple of weeks ago while looking for a recipe for sourdough pancakes, I came across this recipe from Nigel Slater on the guardian.co.uk. And it reminded me of lovely buckwheat crepes I’ve eaten in France. And while my resulting crepes were not as big as the ones typically served at Creperies in France, they taste very similar. Or at least, similar enough to have me flipping through our photo albums.

My husband and I spent our first honeymoon week in Provence, which is our/my most recent trip to France. We spent days travelling around, visiting markets and looking at some of the sights, roman ruins, Vincent Van Gogh’s hospital, old medieval towns. We were stopped on a country road by a flock of sheep, including one which got itself caught on our rental car’s (aka sewing machine) side mirror and bleated pathetically at my husband until it freed itself. We stopped at a small winery and bought a bottle of local wine and admired the collection of bidets posed behind a stone wall. We followed seemingly bizarre directions to get to places – “turn right at the Virgin Mary”, “go under the bell tower, turn right at Nostradamus, and look for the door in the castle wall” and “take the first road off the roundabout with the melon statue” which lead to a charming B&B, a lovely restaurant and the road to Loursmarin, with a castle and a market to visit. And we had some wonderful meals. One was at a small café in a square off the Vieux Quai in Marseilles where they served crepes. The menu read something like

Crepe avec jambon
Crepe avec jambon, fromage
Crepe avec jambon, fromage, oeuf
Crepe avec jambon, fromage, béchamel
Crepe avec jambon, fromage, oeuf, béchamel

I chose the crepe avec jambon, fromage, béchamel which is a favourite of mine. Perfect with a glass of cider at an outdoor café on holiday. And good for a weekday dinner when spring seems like it is taking too long to get here.

Buckwheat Crepes (from Nigel Slater at www.guardian.co.uk)
1 ¼ c buckwheat flour
½ c flour
2 eggs
2 ½ c milk
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp melted butter
cooked ham slices
2 c grated gruyère cheese

Whisk together the flours, eggs, milk, and salt. Put the batter in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight. Heat a pan over a medium heat. Melt a bit of butter in the pan, spreading it over the bottom and ladle some batter into the pan to form a thin crepe. Cook until the edges crisp and then flip and cook the other side. Set aside. Repeat until the crepes are all made.

To fill the crepes lay each one top-side down, place a slice of ham on top, sprinkle with cheese, and fold in half and half again. Put the crepes on a baking sheet and pop into a in a preheated 400 deg F oven until crisp.

I served mine with bechamel over the crepes. And I know that usually, in France, the bechamel is smeared over the inside of the crepe, and then the ham and cheese are folded inside the crepe.

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 ½ c milk

Whisk together the butter, flour and milk over medium heat. Once the mixture is smooth and bubbling, turn down the heat to medium low and cook for 5 minutes. Add a handful of cheese if desired, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour over crepes. (And an apology for the pictures, I find it hard to take a good picture of a brown crepe.)

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