Sunday, December 02, 2007

Crepes natalizie!

There are so many great blog-events asking for a holiday dish in this period of the year. But, strangely enough, in my family there isn't a strong tradition about a special food to make on Christmas. I already posted about lentils and cotechino - and some people make that also on Christmas, not only on the First of the year. Also, my mom used to make cappelletti in brodo from time to time to start our Christmas meal (that's a stuffed pasta eaten in a broth). And if that was the starter, we'd have bollito (boiled meat with sauces, like the sauces that I described in this post) afterwards (you'd make the broth for the cappelletti using the meat that you serve later for the bollito). But as you know, I'm not too big on meat. So, this is not the dish I want to present.
But.. I do have a special memory of one (only one) Christmas, when my mom made.. crepes! I was really excited about them. They were delicious. I still remember, she made one type with ham and one with cheese. And what was really nice about them, was that she had quickly baked them with besciamella and tomato sauce before serving them! So, I decided this will be the holiday dish I'm going to present for Meeta's Monthly Mingle!

Crepes natalizie / Christmas crepes
For the crepes
2 cups flour
1 1/3 cups milk
1 1/3 cups water
3 tbsp butter, melted
1 pinch salt
6 eggs, beaten
For the fillings
1 chinese eggplant
1/2 onion
1 bunch asparagus
wine and milk for coooking
3 portabella mushrooms and 5 white mushrooms
thyme or fresh parsley, chopped
cheese (your choice)
For the besciamella sauce
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
2 tsp nutmeg
For the tomato sauce
1 lb canned whole or diced tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic

Mix all the ingredients to make the crepe batter. In the original recipe, there is a double amount of butter compared to what I used. I thought my crepes were delicious, so you may not need to add the extra. Set aside.
Prepare the fillings: wash and cut all the vegetables in dices (eggplants and mushrooms) or 1 inch pieces (asparagus)
Sautee half an onion in 2 tbsp olive oil and add the eggplant dices. Sprinkle with oregano and salt and cook for ~15 min. Keep aside.
Sautee 2 cloves garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil and add the mushroom pieces and some salt. Sautee for ~15 min, add thyme or fresh parsley (preferred but I didn't have it) and sautee for another 5 min. Keep aside.
Sautee 1 clove garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil and add the asparagus stalk pieces (leave the tips aside) and salt. Sautee for 2 min. Add 3 tbsp red wine. Cook, covered, for ~15 min. Add the tips and ~2 tbsp milk. Cook, covered for another 5-10 min, till done.
Prepare the sauces: for the besciamella, put the of flour in a small pot and slowly add the milk to it, stirring so that it doesn't clump. Add ~1 tsp salt and 2 tsp nutmeg. Put on the stove and cook, stirring every once in a while, till the milk boils. Keep stirring for another 3 minutes and turn off. If during the process the sauce thickens too much, add milk. Adjust the salt and set aside.
For the tomato sauce, as usual, sautee the garlic clove, finely minced, in 2 tbsp olive oil, add the canned whole tomatoes, add 1 pinch sugar and salt to taste, and if you want, basil. Cook, covered, for ~20-30 min. Blend to smoothen and set aside.
Now you can proceed to making the crepes (if you had all these fillings prepared already, you'll need to allow at least 10 min of resting for the crepe batter before starting making them).
Put a ~7 inch anti-sticking pan on the stove, on medium-low heat. Spread a little butter on it. When warm, spoon ~1/4 cup of batter in the pan, and spread the batter evenly on it. After about one minute, turn the crepe (it should be starting to brown). Remove from the stove after another minute, more or less. You'll need a few tries before you get them right, but after that, it's really easy. Spread some more butter on the pan if you notice that the crepes start sticking. With that amount of batter I was able to make ~14 crepes.
Once you have the crepes, you can fill them. Place one of the three fillings in the center of the crepe and add some pieces of your favorite cheese on it. Here is an example using the asparagus:
Then fold the two sides over the filling, and place in a baking pan. Repeat with all the crepes. I was able to have 3 crepes with eggplants, 5 with asparagus and 5 with mushrooms. Some of them were quite big. Place all the crepes in baking pans
Then, cover them with the besciamella sauce (and if you want, also the tomato sauce - I served this on a side because some of my guests cannot have tomato sauce). Place in the oven at 450 F for ~5-10 min, to warm up and melt the cheese.. and enjoy!

This is a little laborious dish (it took me 2 hours to make everything, more or less), but it's worth the effort, especially for a Christmas meal!!


Nora B. said...

Crepes can be laborious, but like you said, it's worth it. I love the ones by David lebovitz.

Meeta K said...

You are a temptress Marta. These look wonderful!