In my second month of culinary school, I decided it was time to get a job in a restaurant kitchen. After much Craigslisting, I scored my very first trail—cookspeak for "work for free for a night and we'll decide whether to keep you." My potential employer was a nouveau Southern joint, since shuttered, where the tasting menu was billed as "five courses plus pie." I showed up fresh-faced and quaking in my clogs.
I was told to break down a dozen chickens, roast trays of veal bones I could hardly lift, and julienne what seemed like a whole haystack of leeks. When that was done, I was put in charge of making all the cornmeal crêpes for that night's crawfish and andouille crêpe special. Only, my nonstick crêpe pan hadn't prepared me to man a cast-iron skillet, let alone three at a time, and certainly not under every-move-you-make scrutiny.
The crêpes—after the first ten or 15 duds—turned out great. Chef just needed them an hour ago. I didn't get the job, and I couldn't even look at a cornmeal crêpe for the next year and a half.
I'm glad I've achieved closure with cornmeal crêpes, because I really missed eating them. They're a little heartier than French crêpes, much yellower, and taste distinctly tortilla-like even while retaining the classic crêpe's pliant texture. Here, I've stuffed them with mushroom ragoût and a runny fried egg, but you could use ham, or cheese, or a quick "ratatouille" of sautéed vegetables bound with crushed tomatoes. Try them for dessert, too, spread with ricotta and honey and rolled up like cigars.
Note: Items bought in large quantities, like the eggs, cornmeal, and sour cream, have been prorated for cost. Ingredients a cook can reasonably be expected to have on hand are considered "pantry items" and are not factored into recipe cost.
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal: $0.37 (cost of 2-pound bag: $1.99)
3 ounces sour cream: $0.75 (cost of 8-ounce container: $1.99)
2 shallots: $0.40
7 large eggs: $1.27 (cost of 1 dozen eggs: $2.19)
1 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms (crimini, portobello): $5.19
Flour, milk, butter, tomato paste, salt and pepper
Adapted from Gourmet
- Yield:10 to 12 crêpes
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Vegetable oil or melted butter for greasing skillet
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 shallots, minced
- 1 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms, trimmed if necessary, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- Freshly ground black pepper
Blend flour, cornmeal, salt, milk, eggs, and melted butter in blender until smooth. (If mixing by hand, place dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and gradually whisk in the wet ingredients, one egg or splash of milk at a time.) Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. If batter seems too thick after standing (consistency should be that of whipping cream), thin with a little bit of cold water.
Lightly brush a 10-inch skillet with melted butter or vegetable oil, and heat over medium heat until hot but not smoking.
Repeat with remaining batter, re-oiling the skillet between crepes. Stack crêpes on plate as they are finished.
- fills 4-6 crêpes -
I used inexpensive crimini and portobello mushrooms, but the recipe works just as well—if not better—with more exotic mushrooms, such as oyster, maitake, and enoki. To keep the dish affordable, try supplementing a base of criminis with a smaller quantity of wild mushrooms.
In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat until butter is melted, and pan is hot but not smoking. Sweat the shallots in oil and butter until translucent. Add mushrooms and large pinch of salt, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the liquid that the mushrooms give off has evaporated, 6-8 minutes.
Add tomato paste and stir to coat mushrooms. Cook for 1 minute.
Reduce heat to low, add sour cream and cook until warmed through. Adjust seasoning.
Allow two crêpes per person, and one egg per crêpe.
Fry the eggs sunny-side up or over-easy. Set aside and keep warm.
Spoon desired quantity of warm mushroom ragoût just below the center of each crepe, leaving a one-inch border on each side. Top with fried egg. Fold in sides of crêpe over filling, then, beginning at bottom, roll up to enclose filling.
Serve crêpe seam side down. Top with sour cream or chopped fresh herbs, if desired.