Pancakes for dinner? If the “breakfast dinner” reigned supreme in your childhood with a barren pantry, the larder empty, the idea of pancakes for dinner comes as not as a welcoming gesture, but as a reminder of poverty. Of imagination, the pocket, the wallet.
But wait … pancakes mean more than flapjacks. Think about enchiladas, blintzes, egg rolls, cannelloni, blinis, and crêpes. All are forms of the universal pan-cake, something made from batters or doughs and cooked in a pan.
Crêpes, combined with a wide variety of fillings and toppings become the most versatile and aristocratic of these “pancakes.” In fact, the old saying – concerning marriages made in heaven – especially applies to combinations of crêpes and seafood.
Where did these light and breathy marvels come from? Crêpes, supposedly invented by the fishermen of French Bretagne, count their age like old men playing boules, a game also called petanque or bocce in Italian, played with metalic balls. Crêpes are as old as civilization. The names, crêpe (French) or crespelle (Italian), come from the Latin, based on the Latin word “crispus,” meaning curly or wavy. Look at the edges of a batch of crepes and that tell-tale waviness appears there. Anatole France, novelist, immortalized crêpes, just as Proust did for madeleines: “Thin and transparent like muslin, their edges are trimmed to resemble fine lace.” During the Middle Ages, crêpes represented allegiance in the feudal system and serfs gifted their landlords with platters of crêpes. Crêpes symbolize many things, even today. In some rural areas of France, peasants stuff themselves with crêpes on Shrove Tuesday as traditional symbols of renewal and family values.
Stuffing crêpes “down the hatch” only comes after the cook”marries” the crêpes with just about any filling imaginable.
Crêpes can be made ahead and frozen; any reputable basic cookbook should include a recipe for crêpes and countless recipes for fillings. But crêpes stuffed with seafood still win the “happiest marriage” combination. Try the following variations on some seafood classics. You’ll agree: some marriages ARE made in heaven.
CRÊPES WITH STIR-FRIED SEAFOOD
3 T. oil
2 cups seafood (pieces of fish, peeled shrimp, shelled crab, scallops)
3 green onions, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1. Heat the oil and fry the seafood for a minute, add the onion and mushrooms. Cook, stirring constantly, until seafood is almost done. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and then add the wine.
2. Using a slotted spoon, spoon 1/4 of the mixture into each crêpe, top with 1/4 cup cheese, and roll up. Sprinkle tops of crêpes with a few tablespoons of grated cheese and run crêpes under the broiler until cheese begins to melt. Serve immediately with a green salad.
SHRIMP CRÊPES THERMIDOR
2 pounds shrimp, peeled and cooked
1/4 cup butter
1 shallot (or white part of 2 green onions), chopped
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
Salt and white pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 T. dry Sherry
1 cup sliced mushrooms, cooked
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 t. dry mustard
6 T. grated Parmesan cheese
1. Heat butter in a saucepan until melted, add the shallot/onion and fry for 1 minute. Stir in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Slowly pour in the milk and whisk the mixture until well-blended. Add the salt, pepper, wine, sherry, mushrooms, cayenne, and mustard. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens.
2. Stir the shrimp into the sauce. Remove sauce from the heat. Fill the crêpes by laying them down flat on a greased baking dish, placing the filling on one half of the crepe. Fold each crêpe over so that the filling is covered by the other half of the crêpe. Repeat with all 8 crêpes. Place them as they are filled in the baking dish. Brush each with melted butter and sprinkle with the cheese. Broil until lightly browned. Serve immediately.
SHRIMP CRÊPES NEWBURG
4 T. butter
4 T. flour
1 1/2 c. whole milk
1 lb. peeled, cooked shrimp
1/4 t. paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
1 T. dry Sherry
Chopped parsley for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Make cream sauce: melt butter in small saucepan, stir in flour, and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Slowly pour in the milk, reduce heat, and cook until thickened.
2. Stir in the shrimp, paprika, salt, pepper, wine, and cheese. Reserve about 1/2 cup of sauce. Fill crêpes as directed for “Shrimp Crêpes Thermidor.” Spread the reserved sauce over the crêpes. Bake crêpes for 10-15 minutes. Serve immediately garnished with parsley.
© 2008 C. Bertelsen