I visited France last year in Spring with a friend who was kind enough to let me stay with her family as we travelled through her mother’s beautiful home country. Over Easter, we spent a few days in a small medieval town outside of Lyon surrounded by the wine region. Here we were hosted by my friend’s grandmother; a lively, athletic woman who really was the epitome of the “French women don’t get fat” type. The meals served at her dining table every day were outrageously indulgent – from flaky, sweet fresh brioche served with home made jams from her garden, to buttery, silky vegetable veloutes, and rich, hearty casseroles.
What made me envious was how fresh all the ingredients were. Being in a country town, all our meals were pretty much farm-to-table. The eggs were from down the road, the poulet (chicken) from the same farm, and the bread baked fresh from the bakery 5 minutes into town.
This savoury crepe recipe is inspired by a famous french grilled cheese sandwich, and that time we visited her cousin the dairy farmer for dinner one night. We arrived at the rustic farmhouse to a gorgeous spread of build-your-own savoury pancakes. In the middle of the dining table were several hot plates surrounded by a variety of savoury crepe toppings such as bacon, cheese, spinach, caramalised onions, ham, sausages, eggs, and fragrant fresh herbs. Tubs of beautiful, luscious crepe batter with ladles sat in close range. It was one of the most fun dining experiences I’ve ever had, and the crepes were absolutely delicious. I urge you all to host your very own crepe party with this recipe!
Happy feasting, and do mind your table manners.
Crepe Madame: Savoury crepes with bechamel sauce, ham, and egg
Prep time: 30 minutes, + 30 minutes resting time
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Serves: 4 with crepes and sauce to store
Crepe Batter Ingredients (makes 12 crepes)
- 1 level cup of plain flour (sifted)
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 organic free range eggs (or 2 large)
- 1 pinch fleur de sel
- Ample butter to cook
Bechamel Ingredients (makes 2 cups of sauce)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
- 3 1/2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups hot whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel
- pinch of white pepper
- pinch of nutmeg (optional)
Toppings (for 4 serves)
- 4 organic free range eggs
- 2 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
- handful parsley
- 2 tablespoons fresh (or dried) chives
- 8 slices of double smoked ham
- Dijon mustard to taste
- To prepare the batter, throw all the ingredients into a blender and blast until smooth. Set aside for 30 minutes. Crepes tastes best when the batter is prepared in advance. It can even be left overnight in the fridge to be cooked the morning after.
- Whilst waiting for the batter to rest, prepare the bechamel. Heat 2 cups of milk to a boil over the stove.
- In a separate heavy bottomed saucepan, add the butter and then add in flour when the butter has melted. Stir until the mixture has become a smooth paste. Continue stirring for a maximum of 2 minutes, or until the paste has turned a buttery yellow and starts to bubble. Remove from heat.
- Pour 1 1/2 cups of the hot milk at once into the butter and flour mixture and whisk vigorously to blend. Move back onto moderately high heat and continue to whisk slowly until the sauce starts to simmer. Dribble in the remaining 1/2 cup of milk into the sauce over 2-3 minutes until it becomes smooth and thick enough to coat the back of your spoon. At this point you want to mix in the fleur de sel, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Heat a medium non stick frying pan over medium heat and melt butter to lightly coat. Pour 2 1/2 tablespoons of the crepe batter into the pan and swirl to cover the base. Cook for 2 minutes. Flip.
- Spread a layer of dijon mustard onto the flipped side of your crepe to your taste (I like the kick of mustard so I usually use half a tablespoon).
- Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of the bechamel sauce.
- Carefully crack an egg into the middle of your crepe and quickly protect it with two slices of the ham around the yolk.
- Sprinkle a handful of cheese and a pinch of parsley and chives over the top. Then quickly fold the sides of the crepes into the center to cover the ham and trap the egg in the middle.
- Cover the pan with a lid and let the filled crepe cook for a further 2 minutes.
- Remove from pan and repeat for remaining eggs.
I purchase my pork products from Humane choice certified Happy Valley Free Range Pork or Farmers Larder. Both are Regional Victorian farms, and can be found from various inner city/suburban markets in Melbourne.
Most of my herbs come straight from my herb garden. Herbs are cheap and easy to grow, and only require minimal effort. Some can be temperamental whilst others thrive, but this really depends on the climate.