Artichoke Buckwheat Crepes
Crespelle di Saraceno con Crema di Patate e Carciofi
Weather: Cold, wet and windy.
Mood: Tired and hungry.
Thoughts: Eat anywhere that is open.
In the Santa Croce area of Florence there are plenty of restaurants, bars and caffés to choose from but two days before Christmas, lots of them have sealed shutters making options pretty limited. The streets were vacant and quiet, and on a cold wet night all you really want to do is be inside as cozy as possible. Gauging a restaurant by peering through its window is a skill you either have or you don’t and it’s always an awkward feeling trying to back out of restaurant you have entered and then realise that maybe it’s not where you want to spend a few hours, especially if you have already been seated. Fortunately we stumbled upon Boccanegra which, even from across the road, with its wooden exterior and handsome signage appeared welcoming and warm. With a quick peek, it seemed that we could really have a nice relaxed dinner under a very homely candlelight, surrounded by an extensive wine collection sprawling through the two wooden and stone dining rooms, and alongside a hip Florentine clientele being served by groovy looking waitstaff.
This crepe, crespelle, recipe comes inspired from the meal I had there on this occasion that was made traditionally with bechamel sauce and baked au gratin before serving. It was the first time I had crespelle and have to say that that it was very comforting to have a such a rich and creamy baked dish; all I was missing was a fireplace to sit beside. I was interested in tweaking the traditional recipe so I could keep it light on the dairy content but still maintain a creaminess, which is an important texture to this dish. I had a lot of fun making a mess in the kitchen and was completely disorganised but in the end it all came together and tasted great to me and to my neighbours Jim and Laurie who get to be my guinea pigs when they surrender their oven for my baking or grilling. (I am deprived of an oven in my kitchen right now)
OK, here comes a recipe:
Ingredients (serves 4)
For the crepes:
80g / 2.8oz Buckwheat flour
80g / 2.8oz Plain all purpose flour (soft variety, tenero 00)
2 large whole eggs
1 cup water
1 capful of vegetable oil
For the filling:
6 medium artichokes
3 medium to large white potatoes for mashing
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 small handful of sage
salt & pepper
parmiggiano for grating
For the crepes:
Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk in a pinch of salt.
Add the mixture of flours a little at a time and continue whisking together.
Add the water, also a little at a time, until you have a runny but dense mixture.
Allow to rest while you prepare the filling.
For the filling:
Peel, wash and chop your potatoes roughly.
Start them in cold water and bring to the boil in a enough water to cover them. Do not salt the water.
In a separate smaller pot, bring some water to boil and then add the chopped garlic and sliced artichokes drained of their lemon water. Do not salt the water.
Pick your sage leaves reserving a few of the nicer ones for garnishing. Chop the rest up finely and fry them gently in some extra virgin olive oil until they are crispy. They will darken a lot but it’s important not to char them while getting them crispy. If they are not crispy they will be quite over powering as you’ll have really chew on them to break them down. When crispy, they just fall apart and are a little more delicate in flavour.
Once the potatoes are cooked, drain and reserve the water. We may need it later. Using the same pot begin blending the potatoes thoroughly with a stab mixer and season with salt and pepper.
Remove the artichokes after about 10 minutes when they are tender. Reserve the cooking water, which will be a pale green colour. Add enough of this water to the potatoes and continue blending with the stab mixer to make a velvety mash potato cream. So creamy it should fall of a spoon. Use the reserved potato water if the artichoke water is insufficient.
Add the cooked artichokes, garlic and crispy sage and fold into the potato cream being careful not to ruin the integrity of the artichokes. They should still hold their shape and add texture to the potato cream.
Season again if necessary.
Put a lid on the pot and begin making the crepes.
Heat a 6-7 inch non-stick frying pan and grease with a paper towel soaked in vegetable oil.
Pour in a small ladleful of the crepe mixture and roll and twist the pan around until the entire cooking surface in evenly covered.
Using a wooden or silicone spatula, work around and under the edges until you can dislodge the crepe completely so it is free to move around in the pan.
Cook on one side and then the other. It should take 3-4 minutes on each side. The crepe surface should look cooked.
Cook eight crepes in this way keeping them covered once they are cooked. This will keep them moist and warm.
Now you’re ready to put a generous dollop of the potato cream on each pancake. Spread around evenly and fold in half and then in half again so they resemble quarter segments.
As you finish folding each crepe, place them into a baking tray ready for baking.
Once all the pancakes are folded and in the baking tray, generously grate some parmiggiano cheese onto them and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
Put into a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 15 minutes or until the the cheesy top is nice and golden brown.
Serve 2 crepes on each plate, alongside a fresh salad of your preference and garnish the crepes with the reserved sage leaves. I have used shredded radicchio in this post.
If you have some potatoe cream remaining you can be adventurous and pour it over the crepes in the baking tray. Then grate the cheese before baking in the oven.
The crepes will be a slighty hidden but it will be creamier and really yummy.
If you don’t want to go for that option, keep any cooking water remaining with the creamy potatoes and with a few adjustments, the next day, you’ll have a soup ready to go. Easy!
What do you think?
Florence; a brief photographic portrait follows.
View from San Miniato church on a stunning day.
The main architectural feature of the cityscape, the iconic Duomo.
A nun buying leather.
I love the fractured reflections from wet cobblestones.
No one rides scooters in the wet.
Ambulance zipping past the Duomo.
Inevitably walking through puddles in Piazza Santa Croce.