One can never have enough French food nor enough visits to Paris. I’ve been to the City of Light three times and still there is more I would like to see and experience there-Pere Lachaise, the Picasso Museum, Giverny, and having a dry martini at the Hotel George V bar for starters.
I finally christened my Country Cooking in France cookbook this weekend by making Crepes au Caramel et Beurre Sale (Crepes with Salted Butter and Caramel Filling). I actually received a crepe pan for Christmas and minus the first two attempts, the rest came out pretty good. Unlike some other crepe fillings, these were a bit messy so a knife and fork is a must. I wasn’t sure how much I would like the salted butter and caramel filling combination, but it really is a deliciously good pairing.
Crepes au Caramel et Beurre Sale
(makes 11 or 12 crepes to serve 4 to 6)
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons clarified butter or vegetable oil, more if needed
SALT BUTTER CARAMEL FILLING
1/2 cup salted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt (optional)
7-inch crepe pan
For the crepes, sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the center and add the eggs and about half of the milk. Whisk the central ingredients until mixed, then gradually whisk in the flour to make a smooth batter. Whisk only until smooth, as the crepes will be tough if the batter is beaten. Stir in half of the remaining milk and melted butter. Cover the batter and leave it to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour so the starch in the flour expands and the batter thickens slightly.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Put the salted butter and cream in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter melts, then set aside. Put the sugar, water and lemon juice in a second saucepan and heat gently without stirring until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat and boil until the sugar starts to turn golden around the edges, 5-7 minutes. Lower the heat and continue boiling to a deep golden brown. The caramel will darken fast. Take the pan from the heat and let it cool for 30 seconds. Add the melted butter and cream, standing back, as the caramel will sputter. Put the pan back over low heat and stir until smooth. Let the mixture cool, then taste and add a pinch of salt to sharpen the flavor if necessary. The filling will set firmly when cold, so you will need to melt it over low heat when assembling the crepes.
To cook the crepes, stir enough of the remaining milk into the batter so it is the consistency of thin cream. Brush the crepe pan with some of the clarified butter and heat it until very hot. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons batter to the pan, turning it quickly so the bottom is coated evenly. Brown the crepe over medium heat, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Loosen it with a palette knife, flip it, and brown the other side, about 30 seconds longer. Turn it out onto a plate and continue frying the remaining crepes, brushing the pan again with clarified butter when they start to stick. (Crepes should be fried with a minimum of butter.) Pile them one on top of another so they keep moist, and if you are serving them at once, keep them covered in a warm place. Both the filling and crepes may be made 2 to 3 days ahead. Refrigerate the filling. To keep the crepes, wrap them tightly and freeze them for up to 3 months.
To finish, heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Warm the filling over low heat and bring the crepes back room temperature. Spread each crepe with 1 tablespoon of the filling, roll, and arrange them in a baking dish on the diagonal. Cover the crepes with aluminum foil and warm them in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Drizzle any extra caramel over the top.
For our main course, I made Julia Child’s Carbonnades a la Flamande (Beef and Onions Braised in Beer). From Mastering the Art of French Cooking she notes that “beer is typical for the Belgian braise, and gives quite a different character to beef than the red wine of the bourguignon.” At the end of the 2 1/2 hour cooking time, the meat was fork-tender. She recommends using a light beer type such as Pilsner although I thought the dish turned out quite well with using an IPA.