OK Paris is an ongoing exchange of culinary encounters and yearnings during OK’s half-year relocation to Paris.
OK decided they wanted to cook at home in Paris rather than eating out ($$) and worse, risking the chance that dreaded (non-vegetarian) ingredients might appear without translation. As in the “salade” that was more duck than green. FYI, “canard” means duck. To talk about the unexpected experience is also called a “canard,” meaning in slang a gaffe, or goof. The French language is both wry and tricky that way! In America, we use the turkey as a caricature, so duck is fair game, no pun intended.
OK’s approach to eating in Paris is a smart move since the sheer experience of the markets, the healthy attitude toward food in Europe in general, and the experimentation of one’s own little kitchen are all educational and fun. And OK will inevitably eat out anyway but choose wisely.
One of the earliest requests was a recipe for crepes. So I sent one off in an email and by the time I got around to posting this, OK already had positive results with the basics. In fact O said that having crepe batter in the refrigerator at all times has become “essential to the quality of life.” Hmm. I know that he’ll think that’s especially true after returning home from a long day/night in the studio since OK no longer have a freezer or pantry to turn to. Think daily bread, but also know that crepes can be pre-cooked and stored, nicely stacked.
In the meanwhile, K, unbeknownst to me until the weekly iChat, had discovered and mastered Béchamel sauce. Wow. So, I built a little meal for The Dad and me to share with OK based on all of the above, starting with savory crepes and some added advice on herbs and spices.
Today, I made crepes filled with spinach bound in a little onion Béchamel seasoned with grated nutmeg (could have been chopped dill in another season). I cooked ours in the oven, adding grated cheese to the Béchamel to make a “Mornay” sauce and spooning it on top. For the oven-less OK, a sprinkling of grated cheese and a very quick pass in the microwave would do it. (FYI beware that a version of Béchamel called “velouté“ is made with meat broth.)
We had leftover crepes, so I made a dessert version with filling that combined ricotta cheese, grated orange rind, and homemade kumquat syrup that I had in the refrigerator, garnished with poached kumquats. Alright, I know that most people don’t just happen to have poached kumquats on hand, but I’ve been messing around all month with canning citrus, struggling with those puckish little buggers, which I suppose are better off eaten than composted. Or not. A good alternative for the filling would be a fruit jam in winter or fresh fruit in season, with or without the ricotta. Or chocolate, always.
These are unsweetened, i.e., savory crepes. To make dessert crepes, add a teaspoon of sugar to the batter. Makes about 12 six- to seven-inch crepes.
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/3 cup water
1 cup all-purpose white flour
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp melted butter
At home, I blend all of the ingredients except the butter in a food processor, and add the butter at the end. Otherwise, to mix by hand, lightly beat the eggs, combine with the milk and water, and stir into a flour. Add butter and salt. Let the mixture sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, and up to a day.
Preheat a griddle or frying pan, adding a little butter. Pour ¼ cup of crepe batter into the pan, spreading it out either by tilting the pan or using a stick-like device like mine (see photo of the simple doweled “T” that my daughter and her friend brought back from the south of France) to twirl it around. Cook until the top is dry, then flip the crepe to set the other side.
Onion Béchamel (white) sauce with cheese variation
I like the easy-to-remember 1-1-1 proportion of flour-based sauces, which also applies to meat gravy. It’s important to heat this slowly so that first the onions and then the flour are thoroughly cooked.
1 small onion, diced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp all-purpose white flour
1 cup milk (nonfat is fine), warmed
¼–1/3 cup grated cheese (Gruyere and Parmesan together is classic, others are fine)
Cook the onion in butter over low heat until translucent, add the flour and stir to combine, cooking without browning for a minute or two. Slowly add the warm milk, whisking to keep the mixture smooth. Cook until thickened, stirring regularly to keep the bottom from sticking. Season with a little salt, adjusting the amount depending on what else is being added. To make Mornay sauce, stir in the grated cheese until melted.
Baked Spinach Crepes
1 small bunch spinach
1/3-1/2 cup onion Béchamel sauce
Grated nutmeg or chopped fresh dill
Salt to taste
1/3-1/2 cup Mornay sauce or grated cheese
Rinse the spinach well, removing the stems and tearing the leaves into medium pieces. Cook the spinach in the water that clings to the leaves until wilted. Drain well. Combine with a little onion Bechamel seasoned with nutmeg or chopped dill. Add only enough to bind the greens. Place a few spoonfuls down the center of a crepe and fold it over, placing in a baking dish seam-side down. Either sprinkle on grated cheese and place in the microwave just briefly (long enough to melt the cheese but not make the crepes mushy), or spoon on the Mornay sauce (mine was made with Emmenthal), sprinkle with grated nutmeg. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the top is browned and the exposed edges of the crepes are a little crisp.
Dessert Crepes with Ricotta Cheese and Fruit
1-2 tbsp of ricotta cheese per crepe
Grated orange rind
½ tsp sugar or to taste
Chopped candied kumquats or fresh berries or jam
Fruit syrup or jam and/or additional fruit
This can be endlessly varied. Season a few tablespoonfuls of ricotta cheese with something sweet and flavorful, add fruit, spoon into crepes and fold them up lengthwise or in quarters. Top with confectioners sugar and more fruit.