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GOOD COOKING

Whither the Crepe?

November 01, 2000|ABBY MANDEL | Mandel is a cookbook author

Crepes seem to be missing from most restaurant menus these days, and they have all but disappeared from the home cooking scene. I recently enjoyed some delicious crepes at Thyme, a Chicago-area restaurant run by John Bubala. Thyme's menu is dominated by seafood infused with the herb thyme, but it was the the crepes that took my attention.

Crepes are easier to make than you might think. They can be made ahead and frozen, so last-minute detail is minimal. With well-flavored fillings, they are really pleasing, almost irresistible.

It's important to have a 10-inch nonstick pan for cooking them.

These recipes will inspire other ideas; really good leftovers--vegetable, chicken and seafood--make a great beginning. Keep some crepes in the freezer for easy access.

Thyme's Crepes

Active Work Time: 10 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 35 minutes plus 30 minutes standing

If you have the time, this batter resulted in even better crepes after it was refrigerated overnight. This recipe may make more crepes than you need, but I've allowed for some throwaways and any extras can be frozen.

2 cups milk

1/3 cup oil

3 eggs

1 large yolk

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons bread flour

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

* Whisk together milk, oil, eggs and yolk in 1-quart bowl until well mixed.

* Place bread and cake flours, sugar and salt in large bowl. Add milk mixture. Use whisk to mix until there are no lumps. Set aside at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. (Batter may be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated, covered airtight. It's OK if batter separates. Stir well before using.)

* Heat 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. When hot, pour in about 1/4 cup batter, swirling pan to cover entire bottom. Cook until edges and underside are light brown and surface is not shiny, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Use spatula (or your fingers carefully) to turn and cook 10 seconds more. Remove crepe to large plate. Continue with remaining batter, stacking crepes as they are finished. (Can be cooked in advance and refrigerated overnight or frozen up to 1 month. Use parchment paper or wax paper between each crepe, place stack on paper plate, then enclose in airtight plastic bag. Thaw frozen crepes at room temperature before using.)

14 (8-inch) crepes. Each crepe: 149 calories; 200 mg sodium; 68 mg cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 16 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 0.04 gram fiber.

Thyme's Crab and Shrimp Crepes

Active Work Time: 40 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 25 minutes plus 30 minutes standing

To make clarified butter, melt 6 tablespoons butter in microwave oven. Spoon off 1/4 cup of clear butter. Use remaining melted butter for vegetables.

BECHAMEL SAUCE

4 tablespoons clarified butter

4 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Freshly ground pepper

* Combine clarified butter and flour in saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until flour taste is gone, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

* Bring milk to boil. Whisking constantly, add hot milk to flour mixture; continue whisking until smooth. Put saucepan over low heat. Simmer until smooth and thick, about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove sauce from heat. Stir in cheese and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Taste and adjust seasoning; mixture should be well seasoned. Sauce will be thick.

CRAB AND SHRIMP FILLING

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon thinly sliced green onion

2 tablespoons finely minced onion

1/4 pound fresh lump or regular crab meat

1/2 pound cooked medium shrimp, halved lengthwise

* Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add green onion and onion. Cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add crab meat and shrimp. Stir mixture. When warm, add all but 3/4 cup Bechamel Sauce. Mix well. Heat through. (Can be made a day ahead and refrigerated, covered airtight.)

ASSEMBLY

8 (8-inch) cooked crepes

1 tablespoon minced parsley, for garnish

Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish

* Lay 2 crepes at a time on work surface. Spoon about 1/3 cup warm Crab and Shrimp Filling over one half of each. Fold in half to close. Place crepes side by side on greased baking sheets. Repeat with remaining crepes. Spoon remaining Bechamel Sauce over crepes, dividing evenly. (Can be made a day ahead and refrigerated.)

* Tent with foil and bake at 350 degrees until warm, about 10 minutes. Remove foil. Bake 2 to 5 minutes more until sauce is bubbling. (Single servings can be reheated in microwave oven). Garnish with parsley and nutmeg. Serve warm.

4 servings. Each serving: 714 calories; 1,084 mg sodium; 335 mg cholesterol; 41 grams fat; 48 grams carbohydrates; 38 grams protein; 0.13 gram fiber.

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