I’m an American girl. Born and raised in Jersey, I love the beach and refuse to pump my own gas. But I’m of French heritage. While my lineage says I’m just as (if not more) Irish, Italian, and German, the French part of me is pretty deeply ingrained. One of my Grandma’s favorite stories about me occurred when I was under three. Along with my mom, she took me to my pediatrician for a well check. When the doctor asked if I could say my ABC’s, I quipped back, “In English or in French?” He was apparently taken aback for a moment, then quickly regained his composure and responded “Both.” I proceeded to recite the alphabet in both languages, quite pleased with myself.
As if that weren’t enough, my great grandmother had me cursing in French before my fourth birthday. I vividly remember a family dinner around my grandparents’ dining room table. My uncle tried to pull something over on me, I thwarted his attempts, and when he said “Hey” I loudly retorted “Tant pis!” As the room erupted in laughter (much to my confusion), my Grandma asked if I knew what that meant. “Yeah,” I replied, “too bad.” She nodded through her laughing, and everyone was impressed by my proper use of the French and my far less vulgar English translation. Quite frankly, I think everyone at that dinner (with the possible exception of my parents) thought my French swearing was the most adorable thing ever.
All of this goes to show that my French roots are pretty solid. When I got France for this project, then, you can imaging how excited I was to get started. While I’ve cooked many French dishes over the years, something I hadn’t experimented with since going gluten free was crepes. When my parents traveled to Paris recently, I was pleased to hear that all of the crepes they saw on menus were of the buckwheat variety. Since this is a gluten free grain, I couldn’t wait to try them out on my own, and this gave me the perfect excuse. I opted for a simple filling of ham and cheese with caramelized onions (apparently these basic types of fillings are what you typically find in France. The crepes themselves are vegetarian, so if you want to fill it with something else, who am I to stop you?). The crepes turned out beautifully. They were thin and flavorful, and the filling got all melty and delicious. The highest compliment I received was the remark that these were just like what my parents got in Paris.
So go ahead and make these absolutely awesome and addictive little pancakes. To minimize the need to exercise your own French swearing skills, I highly recommend enlisting the help of a partner.
Makes about 12 crepes
- 1 ¼ cups buckwheat flour
- 3 large eggs, slightly beaten
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- ¾ cup skim milk
- 1 ¼ cups water
- ¼ tsp salt
- Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, and whisk well. I did this about three hours before I actually made the crepes and left it in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap.
- To make the crepes, heat a 10” nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Coat the bottom of the pan with melted butter (spread it on with a paper towel as to not have excess butter in the pan). Pour approximately ¼ cup of batter into the hot skillet, and rotate the pan around to cover the bottom. Cook for about 45 seconds, before flipping (use a spatula to help prevent breaking) and cooking for an additional 30 seconds. Remove from the pan, and fill immediately.
Ham, Gruyere, and Caramelized Onion Filling
Fills about 12 crepes
- 2 large onions
- Generous splash red wine vinegar
- Fresh thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 oz grate gruyere
- 12 – 16 slices thinly sliced black forest ham
- Preheat the oven to 250.
- For the onions: Halve and thinly slice the onions. Over medium heat, melt butter and add theonions. Toss to coat with the butter, then reduce the heat to low and stir occasionally until the
onions are soft and caramelized, about half an hour. Add the thyme, salt, pepper, and vinegar,and cook for an additional minute, then remove from the heat.
- To assemble the crepes: Take a crepe, and layer ham, cheese, andonions inside. Fold each end over the middle, like you’re folding a letter to put in an envelope. Put the prepared crepes into the oven to keep warm until serving.