Wednesday, July 9, 2008


I studied French for eight years. This should make me a scintillating conversationalist en francais, non?

Regrettably, non. It turns out that when you study a language for eight years, your knowledge will erode unless you exercise those abilities. Practice makes perfect--or at least intelligible.

It is a challenge to exercise one's knowledge of French in Fort Lauderdale. Sometimes, I wish that I'd studied Spanish when I was eleven and my brain was like a little sponge. Instead, I wanted to study French--because it was such a romantic language. I am a Francophile, gotta admit it. Love the country, love the people, love the food, love the wine.

However, I don't have many people to converse with in this romantic language, so I don't use it much anymore. Come to think of it, in the last four years, my practice of French has been limited to the following occasions:

1. to decipher naughtily-named boats on the Intercoastal Waterway;

2. to amuse a grandfatherly Canadian client on the way to a business meeting;

3. to read poetry from my 11th grade poetry journal, just to see if I still could do it (I could); and

4. to watch SCOLA to see if I could do that (I sorta could, and then realized that I couldn't at all).

Dad, you were so right in 1991 when you told me that I should study Spanish because it would be useful. So very right. And I am glad that I took two years of Spanish in college, even though my brain was not nearly as flexible as it was years earlier.

But overall, I am glad that I studied French. It is still so romantic.

Crepes with Chanterelles, Bechamel and Caramelized Onions
Adapted in part from Mark Bittman's crepe batter recipe and Bechamel recipe in How to Cook Everything

For the crepes:
1 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup whole milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons canola oil

For the Bechamel:
1 1/2 tablespoons of butter
1 1/2 tablespoons of flour
1 cup of heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the filling:
1 tablespoon of butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup of chanterelle mushrooms (porcinis would also be tasty)
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Planning Tip: you're going to need three burners available for this recipe, so think ahead!

Begin by making the crepe batter. Combine the flour, salt, and milk and beat until smooth. Beat in the eggs and canola oil. Refrigerate the batter for one hour.

While the crepe batter is in the refrigerator, make the filling. Place 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan and heat the pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and allow it to slowly caramelize, stirring occasionally. This will take almost 30 minutes. When the onion begins to brown, add the garlic and stir more often. After 3-4 minutes, add the chanterelle mushrooms and thyme and saute, still over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.

While the mushrooms are sauteing, begin the Bechamel sauce. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When the foam begins to subside, whisk in the flour. Continue whisking for approximately 3 minutes until the sauce darkens. Whisk in the heavy cream about 1/4 cup at a time, then reduce the heat to low.

Now, while the Bechamel sauce is sitting on low heat and the mushrooms are sauteing, take the crepe batter out of the fridge and give it a gentle stir, careful not to create bubbles (bubbles can cause crepes to tear). Heat a small (9 inch) non-stick skillet over medium heat. When a drop of water sizzles on the surface, add 1/2 tablespoon of butter and swirl it around the skillet to create a thin layer on the bottom.

This next part is going to happen fast, so keep your eye on the ball!

Add about 3 tablespoons of crepe batter to the bottom of the skillet and turn the skillet so that the batter distributes in a very thin, even layer. When the batter is dry (less than one minute), flip the crepe over and cook the other side for about 15 seconds. The crepe should be a rich caramel color and it should be tender, not crisp.

Repeat until you have the desired number of crepes.

Smear a tablespoon of Bechamel sauce on each crepe, then top with the chanterelle mushrooms and onions. Fold the crepe over and enjoy!

Serves: 4

Steve and I opened a 2006 Ash Hollow Gewurztraminer with our crepes and its rosey mineral taste paired quite well with the rich mushrooms and Bechamel.


Jimi said...

I studied French as well, but for not nearly as long. And like you it seams I can't remember a word.

If anything though, I'm working under a French Chef now and I seam to be the only one who can decipher his accent (and the occasional phrases when he doesn't want anyone to hear).

Kelly said...

Oh that looks yummy..

Sarah said...

Jimi--working under a French chef will give you a crash review crash in the language, I'm sure (especially the naughty phrases)!

Kelly--thanks, it sure was!

Grace said...

this is a lovely recipe! i often feel like i'm not worthy to eat crepes--they seem so fancy-shmancy. heck, pretty much everything french seems fancy-shmancy, even people who speak the language. i guess that makes you kinda fancy-shmancy in my eyes. :)

Heather said...

Oooh, I love chanterelles. I pick them in the fall, and we usually end up eating chanterelles in everything for a month! This is a great idea.

Dave said...

Hi, Sarah. I tried to find an email address for you on the blog, but couldn't, so I'm sending a comment.

I was recently selected to receive the Arte Award, and was asked to select five other blog sites to pass it along. I really enjoy reading Fritter, so I've decided to pass the award along to you. My post about the award is here:

and you may read about the rules there as well.



bb said...

You may not be able to speak French, but your recipe looks trés magnifique! Okay, that's about all my French, too. I'm also a frustrated francophile who knows just enough to ask about a hotel room, or for a reservation, feeling good about myself, until that first response comes back and then they get that blank look. C'est la vie, non?