Sunday, December 18, 2011

Night of the Crepes: Spinach & Mushroom and Sun-dried Tomato & Artichoke

If you're gonna name your post after an obscure 80s zombie flick, you'd better make sure the food is tasty.
Recently, I've been craving peach crepes, so I offered to make crepes for this week's Top Chef viewing party with Alexis and Heather. Sadly, no one informed my stomach of the fact peaches were no longer in season, so instead I overcompensated for my misfortune by making three delightful batches of crepes: Chicken, Spinach and Mushroom crepes with Chicken, Sun-dried tomato and Artichoke Crepes for dinner and Blueberry-Lemon crepes for dessert (stay tuned for the dessert round).

Crepes Master Recipe
Previously seen in Peach Crepes
Recipe from Taste of Home
Servings: 10 crepes
Time: 75 minutes (60 inactive)

3/4 cup milk
3 eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Blend the ingredients until smooth then refrigerate for an hour.
  2. Pour approximately 3 tbsp of batter in a lightly greased skillet. Quickly lift and tilt the pan to spread out the batter for thin crepes. Cook over medium heat until the edges start to brown then flip and cook for another 30 seconds.
This crepe kind of reminds me of the demon dogs from Ghostbusters.
I was a huge fan of these crepes when I made them previously for my sweet crepes, so I took a gamble and stuck with them for the savory dinner crepes. I was a little concerned about the vanilla, but it added a nice element that really only enhanced how savory the fillings tasted. These crepes also helped me learn a harsh reality about my stove-top: it's slightly sloped. Despite my best efforts, every crepe quickly deformed once it was laid down leading to an amusing Rorschach test of French culinary treats.

Spinach Mushroom Crepes

A whole lot of spinach
Mushrooms, sliced
Garlic, minced
White wine
Olive oil
Crepes (see above)
Chicken, chopped and cooked
Béchamel sauce (recipe follows)

  1. Cook your chicken. I cooked mine in cream of mushroom sauce until it started to fall apart.
  2. Sauté the mushrooms, spinach and garlic in olive oil covered over medium-low heat. Once they get a little tender add some white wine for flavor. 
  3. Add the chicken and cook for another couple of minutes.
  4. Fill the center of your crepes with the mixture, fold, lightly top with Béchamel sauce and serve.
Exploding with flavor!
This basic filling helped seriously satiate my craving for greens. Spinach and mushroom are a winning combo in anything from pizza to salad, and they filled the crepes with an Earthy magnificence. In my opinion they don't really even need the Béchamel sauce, but it does help add a richness that the dish is lacking if you so desire. Special thanks to my sous chef Alexis for cooking the chicken and serving as an enabler to ensure I don't overcome my fear of raw chicken germs (I'm still washing my hands from opening the package).

Chicken with Sun-dried Tomato and Artichoke Crepes

1/2 sweet onion, diced
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, plus extra for garnish
1 can marinated artichokes, drained and quartered
1 1/2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine
Crepes (see above)
Gruyere cheese, grated
Béchamel Sauce (recipe follows)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Cook your chicken. I cooked mine in cream of mushroom soup until the chicken started to fall apart.
  3. Sauté the onions in olive oil over medium heat until tender and translucent (about 5 minutes).
  4. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  5. Stir in the artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes.
  6. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and continue cooking until the veggies absorb the wine.
  7. Stir in the chicken and some bechamel sauce and cook for 2 minutes.
  8. Fill the center of crepes with the mixture then fold. Top with additional Béchamel sauce and gruyere then heat in the oven until the cheese melts.
  9. Add sun-dried tomatoes for garnish and serve.
I like to think of the sun-dried tomatoes as a fancy (and edible) bow tie.
The bold flavor of the sun-dried tomatoes plays splendidly with the slight bitterness of the artichoke to provide the ultimate savory crepe. But it doesn't end there. The nuttiness of the gruyere enhances the Béchamel sauce to yield a dish filled with powerful ingredients all in perfect harmony.

Béchamel Sauce
Time: 20 minutes

6 tbsp butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups milk
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 tsp salt

Mmm butter... I mean bechamel sauce.
  1. Heat the butter in a sauce pan over medium-low heat. 
  2. Once the foam has dissipated, whisk in the flour.
  3. Cook until the mixture turns golden brown (about 10 minutes).
  4. Slowly add the milk, white wine and chicken broth and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Top your crepes with the sauce to increase the deliciousness and calories.
The fancy French name of this sauce should immediately alert you to its defining characteristic: it is essentially butter. As a result it is also basically the most delicious thing in the world. Just be sure to use it in moderation so it enhances the flavor of your crepes without overpowering it.

The dinner portion of Night of the Crepes was now concluded with some tasty dishes. In my opinion, the ridiculously savory sun-dried tomato and artichokes crepes were the clear winner, but Alexis and Heather were convinced the spinach mushroom variety was superior.  We could all agree on one thing though: super thin pancakes are incredible.

These crepes could also easily be converted to vegetarian by using the Gardein chicken patties I love so much. Just cook them in some olive oil for about 3-5 minutes per side until heated through. The results should be equally spectacular (and slightly healthier, so you should probably up the amount of Béchamel sauce).

Stay tuned for the frightening finale (yeah I'm trying really hard with this whole zombie movie thing): our dessert Blueberry-Lemon Crepes.

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