Sunday, 16 August 2015

Chicken, Asparagus and Boursin Cheese Stuffed Crepes

A few days ago I roasted a couple of chickens, with the intention of freezing the cooked meat in small portions for sandwhiches and wraps. This is what I usually do, but for some reason I forgot to freeze the chicken right away. I knew I had to use it up; combining it with the last of the fresh asparagus and some herb Boursin cheese, stuffing it into crepes and then baking everything smothered in a rich, creamy cheese sauce was my plan.

This also allowed me to use up the small piece of Swiss cheese that was in the fridge, as well as some open chicken stock. For the person who doesn't like asparagus, I made some crepes filled with chicken, artichoke hearts and Boursin cheese. This was a win win, as those of us who like both asparagus and artichokes had the choice of both!

This was a project that stretched out over the whole day, but as I had no big plans and it was raining outside, this was OK with me. To avoid spending all day making dinner, the filling and crepes can be made ahead over a couple of days, and then the whole dish just needs to be assembled, baked and enjoyed!

For the filling, cook until soft and slightly coloured:

1/3 medium zucchini, diced
1 large shallot, diced
1/2 medium onion diced

Use a bit of olive oil to cook them, and season with salt and pepper.

When the vegetables are soft, add:

Enough flour to coat the vegetables well when stirred; I used about 1 - 2 tablespoons.

Cook, stirring, for 2 - 3 minutes.

Add chicken stock, a little at a time, stirring constantly. You are looking for a smooth sauce, with chunks of vegetables, that is the consistency of a thick gravy.

Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove the sauce from the heat.

In a bowl combine:

2 cups diced cooked chicken
12 asparagus spears, cut into 1" pieces and quickly blanched and cooled.

Now add half of the sauce to the bowl and mix well to combine.

The other half of the sauce will be added to the artichoke filling.

Crumble half a package of garlic and herb Boursin cheese into the bowl, mix well to combine, taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside until needed.

The other half of the Boursin cheese will be added to the artichoke filling.

To make the crepes, combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl:

2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Whisk together the wet ingredients:

2 cups milk
4 eggs

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk until well combined, and no lumps remain.

Set the batter aside to rest for 30 minutes.

While the batter is resting, get a flat non stick pan ready, along with a spatula for flipping the crepes. I used a 2 ounce ladle to measure the batter into the pan. Have a baking sheet ready beside the stove for the cooked crepes to cool on.

Stir in:

1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Add more milk if the batter is too thick. It needs to be thin enough to pour into the pan and swirl around to coat the surface thinly.

Heat the non stick pan over a medium high heat until it is very hot.

Remove the pan from the heat, and holding it over the crepe batter, pour a ladle of batter into the pan, swirling and tilting the pan so that the batter covers the surface as evenly and thinly as possible.

Place the pan back on the heat and allow the first side of the crepe to cook.

When the surface of the crepe better is no longer wet, and the sides can be easily lifted, carefully slide the spatula under the crepe and flip it over.

The second side only needs a few seconds in the pan.

Slide the cooked crepe out onto the waiting baking sheet, overlapping the crepes slightly.

This recipe made 17 crepes.

Lightly grease a 9" X 13" ovenproof dish. Lay 8 crepes out onto the clean counter, with the side that was cooked second facing up.

 Divide the filling evenly between the 8 crepes.

Fold the side closest to you over the filling.

Fold the two sides over towards the centre.

Roll the crepe and filling away from you, forming a package.

Place the crepe packages into the prepared dish.

Make a Basic White Sauce (Bechamel)  , using 3 cups of milk.

Whisk in:

a handful of grated Parmesan
a handful of grated Swiss cheese.

Taste and adjust seasoning.

Pour the cheese sauce over the top of the crepe packages and sprinkle any remaining cheese over the top.

Bake at 350F until heated through and the sauce is bubbling, with a crispy golden top. Allow the crepes to rest for 5 minutes before serving. This will allow the sauce to set a bit, making it easier to serve.

  • To make the chicken, artichoke and Boursin filling, follow the same steps as for the asparagus filling, but use 6 artichoke hearts, diced, instead of the blanched asparagus spears.
  • The whole dish can be made and assembled a day ahead...simply bake and serve. Alternatively, the crepes and filling can be made a day or two ahead, leaving the sauce, assembly and baking for the day of serving.
  • This is a very rich dish, so a little will go a long way.
  • Milk or whipping cream can be used if you have no chicken stock when making the filling.
  • I used part onion and part shallot as I had one shallot that had been overlooked and needed to be used. Leeks or green onions can be used as well.
  • The filling is very versatile. Vegetables can be used according to what you have, what you like and/or what is available that season. Remember if you are using greens such as spinach, kale or chard to wilt them and squeeze out as much excess liquid as you can so that the filling does not become watery during baking.
  • Other vegetables to try include: sliced and cooked mushrooms; red pepper, fresh or roasted; grilled eggplant or zucchini; frozen corn or sweet green peas; edamame beans; roasted garlic or sundried tomatoes.
  • Meats choices are not limited to chicken. Use any leftover cooked meat, diced or shredded. Pork tenderloin or leftover roast; pulled pork, beef or chicken; smoked chicken; diced ham; cooked shrimp and/or scallops; flaked cooked fish; smoked salmon chunks; ground beef, chicken, turkey pork or lamb; cooked, sliced sausage such as chorizo.
  • Meat can be eliminated and the crepes can be vegetarian if you like. Ricotta or cottage cheese can be added to the filling, as well as extra vegetables and/or beans.
  • Cheese is your choice. I used the Boursin because we all love it and I had bought some as a treat. Cream cheese, especially flavoured types can be used instead. Grated cheese such as cheddar, Asiago or havarti can be used; baby bocconcini, crumbled goat or blue cheese or sliced Brie can also be used.
  • If you don't want to attempt the crepes, or don't have the time, some grocery and specialty food stores sell them ready made, often in the freezer section. If you are making them, make extra, layer them with parchment paper in between, and freeze them for another meal.
  • The herbs I used were chives and thyme, as I have a lot of these in the garden right now. Any herbs will work; choose the type you use according to the meat, cheese and vegetables in your filling. Spices such as ground black pepper, cumin, paprika or chili flakes can also be used. The  crepes can also be made plain, without any flavouring other than the salt.
  • Plain crepes, or those flavoured with sweeter spices such as cinnamon, vanilla or lemon zest are perfect to use for dessert. Use a sweet pie filling, chocolate spread or nut butter, fresh fruit and whipped cream or simply sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar and squeeze some lemon juice over the crepe. If you are making dessert crepes that will be baked, consider adding cream cheese or mascarpone cheese to the will melt and add a lot of richness and creaminess.
  • The cheese sauce is a Basic White Sauce (Bechamel). Adding the Swiss cheese and Parmesan turns it into a Mornay sauce. The two cheeses are sharp in flavour, and the Swiss adds a gooey element to the sauce. I added extra milk to the sauce as I wanted it to be thinner; it is easier to pour over the crepes, and it also thickens a bit in the oven.
  • Other sauces can be used if you prefer...Basic Tomato Sauce, Basil Pesto or even a combination of sauces.

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