It’s hard to dislike French food. And it’s even harder to dislike it when a French femme fatale makes it for you.
Frédérique, the French lady in question, likes to play hard to get. I’d been harassing her to teach me some good recipes for a while, but – like the good French woman she is – she was elusive. Mysterious, even. Eventually, my persistence paid off. A few weeks ago she taught me to make what she calls Crêpes au jambon de Paris – crepes with Parisian ham – which I now call, “the best way to seduce anyone.”
Frédérique and I have been friends for many years, and over the course of our friendship I’ve grown to admire her kindness and free spirit. She’s the most amazing (and coolest) mom. She cycles to work year round (including this past terrible Boston winter), goes to avant-garde concerts, tells funny jokes, loves animals (takes good care of our dog when we travel), and has quirky hobbies, like mushroom foraging and painting ships. But not just painting ships; they have to be moody and dark, with stormy skies and shadows. How French.
Without any family nearby, she has raised her son by herself. And she’s done an impressive job. For example, when he was 10, he started writing a novel – several chapters of which I read and by which I was thoroughly impressed. He’s a smart young man. (We celebrated his 15th birthday just last month.)
Anyway, I have a tremendous deal of respect and admiration for Frédérique. But that has not affected my judgment when it comes to food. These crepes are truly delicious. Now you can thank me for having worked so hard and so long to extract the recipe from her.
And let me know how they turn out!
CREPES WITH HAM, MUSHROOMS, LEEKS, AND BECHAMEL SAUCE
For the crepes
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups whole milk
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of sugar
- ½ lb Jambon de Paris (Paris-style cooked ham), or any good cooked ham
- 3-4 leek stalks
- 1 cup (8 oz.) baby Portobello or regular white mushrooms
- ½ cup grated gruyere, comte, swiss, or emmental cheese
- Olive oil, salt, and pepper
For the bechamel
- 3 tbsp (40 grams) butter
- 1/3 cup (40 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 cup milk
- Make the crepes:
- Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and make a well in the center.
- Add one egg in the well and mix really fast with a wooden spoon to incorporate the egg with some of the flour until smooth. Add each additional egg in this manner combining it with the rest of the flour until you obtain a smooth mixture. (It’s okay if some flour is left unmixed.)
- Add the milk slowly while stirring gently with a wooden spoon. Keep pouring the milk gradually while mixing until you obtain a creamy liquid. You can switch to a whisk half way through adding the milk to avoid lumps. (You can also do this in a blender to save time and elbow grease.) It’s important not to have lumps in the batter. You can sift the batter to remove any lumps.
- Heat up a flat, nonstick pan with a bit of butter, oil, or oil spray and pour about one ladleful of the crepe batter on it, making circular movements to coat the pan completely. Cook on medium/low heat until it begins to come off the pan. Flip over to cook on the other side. The crepes should be thin and have brown spots/patches (but not be burned!)
- Stalk up the crepes on a plate until you finish up all the mix. You should end up with more than a dozen crepes. Set aside.
- Turn on the oven to 380F.
- Make the Bechamel:
- Melt the butter in a saucepan and add flour. Mix well.
- Add broth slowly while stirring.
- Add milk.
- Stir occasionally and cook for about 5-10 minutes in low heat. The result should be a creamy sauce, not too thick. Set aside.
- Make filling:
- Assemble and cook:
- Fill each crepe with two or three spoonfuls of the filling and roll into a loose cigar.
- Place in an oven-safe casserole dish.
- Cover with grated cheese.
- Bake at 380F for 15-20 minutes.
- Bon appétit!