This baked dish of delicate mushroom crepes topped with tomato sauce and cheese was a childhood favorite when I was growing up in Calcutta. It represented the best of Continental cuisine as I understood it – crepes from France, tomato sauce from Italy, along with exotic un-Indian mushrooms and a crust of delicious melting cheese….
What I love about the dish is that the individual components can be made ahead in time, and assembled just before baking and serving. Don’t assemble the dish ahead in time, as the unbaked dish doesn’t hold up well.
You can also stuff the crepes with other fillings. For instance, you can add or substitute golden corn for the mushrooms in this recipe. Mixed vegetables, like peas, beans and carrots, work very well too.
Note: my basic savory crepe recipe below has been adapted from Alton Brown.
MAKES ABOUT 15 CREPES
For the basic savory crepes:
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon butter, very soft
Pinch of salt
For the mushroom filling:
1 pound crimini mushrooms, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 cup mild white or yellow onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
a handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
For the tomato sauce:
3-4 medium tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, minced
a generous pinch of sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 bay leaves
salt to taste
For the topping:
1/2 – 1 cup shredded white melting cheese (my favorite is Gruyere)
a few sprigs of flat leaf parsley, chopped
1. Crepe batter: First, combine all the wet ingredients (eggs, milk, water, butter) for the crepes, and then stir in the flour and salt. You can do this by hand whisking or by pulsing for a few seconds in the food processor. If you are in a hurry you can make the crepes immediately. However, allowing the batter to rest covered in the refrigerator for an hour or so is recommended for easier crepe making. While the batter is resting, you can proceed with making the filling and the tomato sauce.
2. Making the crepes: Heat a small flat pan, coat lightly with butter and place about 1/8 cup of crepe batter. Immediately, swirl the pan around so that a fairly thin 5-6-inch crepe forms. When the edges start curling up, and the crepe seems set in the center, flip the crepe over. Cook on the other side for a few seconds. Remove, and lay to cool. When cooled, you can stack the crepes and store in the refrigerator for a day or two if not using immediately.
3. Making the mushroom filling: Heat the butter in a pan. First, saute the garlic for a few seconds. Next, add the onions and cook until the onions are soft. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook for a little while, until the mushrooms are tender but retain a plump shape and some snap. Sprinkle the flour on the mushrooms and stir. Add the milk and bring to a boil on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add salt and some freshly ground pepper to taste. Remove from the heat when the mixture begins to thicken and starts to coat the sides of the pan. Note that the filling will thicken further upon cooling, but it shouldn’t be too watery otherwise it will not hold well inside the crepes. Toss in the chopped parsley and keep aside until the mixture cools a little.
4. Tomato sauce for topping: You can make your own tomato sauce or use your favorite mild marinara sauce for the topping. I like to blanch about 3 medium tomatoes for a few minutes in hot boiling water and then put them into cold water so that the skin of the tomatoes peels off. I puree the peeled tomatoes, and then cook them for a while in olive oil, with chopped garlic and a bay leaf or two. Add salt and a pinch of sugar to taste. This sauce can be made ahead of time.
5. Finishing: Place a little mushroom filling inside a crepe and roll it up. Place in a large baking dish that has been lightly dabbed with tomato sauce along the bottom. Continue until all the crepes are filled. Top the crepes with smears of tomato sauce (not too much, as the sauce shouldn’t overpower the delicate flavor of the crepes and mushrooms), sprinkle the cheese generously over the top along with the chopped parsley, and bake in a 350F oven for about 10-15 minutes until the cheese has melted. Serve hot.