October 8, 2008

About dissapointment and a recipe - Savory Stuffed Crepes - Clatite umplute

I don't know if you've read here when i was talking about my dream of becoming Suzanne Goin (by the way, i've just seen again the commercial for land of food and wine, she is one of the chefs featured in it, and i still like her in spite of what i wrote lower).
I have been planning for a long time to go to her restaurant Lucques, but for some reason we didn't get there until last Sunday. I've read about her, her talent, her inspiration, her recipes, awards and book, and about her restaurant which was voted best in LA last year and it is rated in the best 10 in LA all the time. But our dinner at Lucques two days ago wasn't all i have been dreaming of. I was looking to show my husband that this is what food means to me. More than a plate on the table, but something that can make you feel better, because it carries the soul of the one who makes it, and brings everybody together, having a great time, and creating wonderful memories. And all my dreams were shattered in about 60 minutes, making me pretty sad. And this happened on our 10th year anniversary night, which was worse, especially for me, since i am the food-crazy one, Gabriel couldn't care less.
It doesn't mean that the James Beard winning chef Goin isn't a talented chef, that her book isn't inspired and that the dishes served at Lucques could not be truly amazing, because her "record speaks for herself " (debate talk, anybody?). And anyway, i am no food critic, as anybody could see, although i would love to find my words at least 1/10 as well as
Opinionated About Dining. (off topic - now i really want to go to Bastide and to Providence here in LA, and i cannot wait for Steve Plotnicki to go to Lucques so i could read what he has to say.)

The Sunday supper we had (the meals for which Lucques is known) was far away from being extraordinary. The bread was cold (refrigerated cold), but we liked the snack - olives and almonds tossed in oil. The salad was just so-so, lacking some acidity, the roasted grapes should have been bursting with flavor, it's their season, isn't it?, but they didn't. I thought the niman ranch pork chop was good, with breadcrumbs on top and roasted tomatoes, served on green beans, strings and shelled, but the meat had several gristles, which couldn't be swallowed, just gracefully spitted out. I had the fish (grouper) with boiled potatoes in a saffron broth, tomato confit and oranges. Normally, this is a combo i would like, but this time, for some reason it didn't work for me. It was ok, but not more than that, and even i made fish with oranges at home, so i was looking for something more adventurous or exciting from them. The dessert was apple and frangipane galette with crème fraîche and vanilla ice cream. The crust underneath the apples was really very hard, not flaky, and the almond taste was so strong that made it very bitter. I could not finish the slice and tried to pass it to Gabriel, but he didn't want it. I couldn't believe my ears, he usually eats three times as much as I do and never says no to anything. The vanilla ice cream was so blaaah, i think Haagen Dazs is three times better and we are talking about supermarket ice cream.
I know it sounds harsh, it was not the worst dinner, but was definitely not memorable, nor inspiring, just acceptable. Lucques seemed overrated, and it didn't live up to all the praise. Maybe weekday meals are better, and maybe we'll go back to see, but not very soon. The only thing i know is that they fell short. Maybe the chef was not there this time, who knows...

The service was not spot on either, some of them being quite smug. The salads came out quick enough, but for the main entrees, we waited a while. The table next to us, received theirs one after another, although they came after us, while we were still waiting.
On the other side, the portions are large and the price is not bad at all for a 3 course menu in an upscale place. The restaurant looks nice, i like the rustic elegant setting, and the patio, too, and if i am still dreaming of having my own restaurant one day, i would love to have one like that and so full all the time.

Enough gossip, now my post for today - Savory Stuffed Crepes

I like crepes, but not very much making them, because (1) i don't like to be glued to the stove like that, i usually multi-task, (2) they dissapear so quickly and (3) when you start eating them, it is hard to stop after just one or two.
I like making stuffed crepes with savory fillings, baked or served as appetizers. I like the mushroom stuffing, the spinach and cheese, the chicken livers, or ground meat, ricotta and dill, baked au gratin, served with a salad....
This time, i could not make up my mind, i suffer of this a lot, and made two separate ones - one stuffed with a mix of spinach - ricotta - feta with a bechamel sauce and another one with chicken livers -onions -zucchini -herbs with a tomato sauce and parmesan. This is not diet food, but since i make them only once or twice a year, i think (hope) we'll survive. I know how long this post is and how the recipes are not complicated though they look scary, but they are not difficult at all, and the results are really worth all the trouble this time.

(makes at least 12, depending on the size of your skillet)
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups milk + 1/2 cup sparkling water (or 2 cups milk)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons oil
Whisk the eggs with the milk and the sparkling water until they are combined. Put the flour in another bowl and add the liquids, mixing well to avoid any lumps, until all is thoroughly incorporated. Add the salt and oil, and if the batter is too thick, more milk (it should look like heavy cream). Cover and refrigerate the batter for 30 minutes to an hour, even longer.
Heat a non-stick skillet, over medium heat. Brush it with oil, and when it's hot but not smoking, pour about ½ of a ladle/cup of batter into the center of the skillet and rotate it so the batter covers the bottom of the pan in a thin layer. Cook the crepe until it is just golden on one side, 1 to 2 minutes, turn it and cook until it is golden on the other side, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate, and keep warm by covering with aluminum foil. Continue until all the batter is used.

Bechamel sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups milk
Salt, pepper and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but don't let it brown. Add the milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste, lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 more minutes. Stir in ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese. Remove from the heat.

Spinach stuffing: (for 6 stuffed crepes - 18 rolls)
10 oz spinach (ab 300g)
1 cup ricotta cheese
½ cup feta cheese
one bunch scallions chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
2 eggs
Salt, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

Saute the green onions and spinach until there is no more moisture in the pan. Let cool, then mix the spinach with the cheeses, eggs, parsley, salt, pepper and chili flakes.
Stuff each crepe with about 2 tablespoons spinach mixture, roll them, then remove the ends and cut the crepe in three segments.
Butter a baking dish and spread half of the bechamel sauce on the bottom. Place the crepe rolls standing in the dish, then pour the rest of the cheese sauce on top. Sprinkle more grated Parmesan cheese on top if you like. Bake at 350F (170C) for about 30 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Chicken liver stuffing (for 6 stuffed crepes)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 zucchini, grated (makes the stuffing moist; squeeze out all water from it when ready to use)
2 slices bacon, diced
one pound chicken livers
1 egg
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
salt, pepper and ½ teaspoon dry thyme
225 ml tomato sauce

Cook half of the onion, the bacon and garlic in a skillet, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden. Clean and rinse livers, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Add livers and thyme to onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until livers are just cooked through and they are no longer pink in center. Remove from heat, let cool, then chop the livers. I don’t use the food processor for this because it will come out like a pate, and I like the liver a little bit chunkier for the stuffing.
Saute the other half of onion with the zucchini until no longer moist. Add the zucchini, the dill and the egg to the chicken livers and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
Use about 3 tablespoons chicken liver mixture for each crepe. Stuff and roll all crepes.
Butter a baking dish, spread half of the tomato sauce on the bottom, then place the crepes on top of the sauce, and cover with the rest of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped thyme or parsley on top. Bake at 350F (170C) for about 30 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Serve both immediately, preferable with a salad.



(Ingrediente pentru cel putin 12, depinde de marimea tigaii)
3 oua
375 ml lapte + 125 ml apa minerala (sau 500 ml lapte)
175 g faina ( o ceasca si jumatate)
un varf de sare
2 linguri ulei

Se amesteca ouale cu laptele si apa minerala (sau numai lapte) pana sunt combinate bine. Intr-un castron se pune faina si se adauga lichidele, amestecandu-se bine incat sa nu fie cocoloase. Se adauga sarea si uleiul, iar daca e nevoie si mai mult lapte, incat compozitia sa fie ca o smantana subtire. Se lasa sa se odihneasca la frigider aproape o ora, chiar si mai mult.
Se pune o tigaie neaderenta sa se incinga la foc potrivit. Se unge cu putin ulei, se toarnă o jumatate de polonic de compoziţie in mijloc si se roteste tigaia incat compozitia sa acopere tot fundul intr-un strat subtire. Se prajeste clatita 1-2 minute pe o parte, pana e aurie, apoi se intoarce pe partea cealalta sa se rumeneasca, aproape 30 secunde. Se fac pe rand toate clatitele si se aseaza intr-o farfurie una peste alta. Se continua pana toata compozitia e folosita.

Sos alb (Bechamel):

4 linguri unt
2 linguri faina
350 ml lapte
Sare, piper si 1/4 lingurita nucsoara rasa
½ ceasca Parmesan ras

Se topeste untul intr-o craticioara la foc potrivit. Se adauga faina si se prajeste, amestecandu-se continuu, pana cand arata ca o pasta, fara sa se arda. Se adauga laptele, amestecandu-se continuu in sosul care incepe sa se ingroasa. Se lasa sa ajunga la clocot, apoi se adauga sarea, piperul si nucsoara, se micsoreaza focul si se amesteca in continuare inca vreo 2 minute. Se amesteca parmesanul ras si se da la o parte de pe foc.

Umplutura cu spanac: (pt. 6-8 clatite - 18-24 ruluori)

300g spanac
1 ceasca urda proaspata ( ricotta)
½ ceasca telemea zdrobita
o legatura ceapa verde tocata marunt
2 linguri patrunjel proaspat tocat
2 oua
Sare, piper si 1/2 lingurita ardei iute uscat

Se calesc ceapa verde si spanacul pana se evapora tot lichidul. Se lasa sa se raceasca, apoi se amesteca spanacul, urda, telemeaua, ouale, patrunjelul si condimentele. Se umple fiecare clatita cu 2-3 linguri de spanac, se ruleaza, se taie capatele si se imparte fiecare clatita in trei parti.Se unge un vas termorezistent cu unt si se intinde jumatate din sosul alb pe fundul vasului. Se pun rulouri cu spanac in picioare unul langa altul pana se umple vasul, si se toarna restul sosului de branza pe deasupra. Se presara Parmesan ras pe deasupra si se da la cuptor la 350F (170C) pentru vreo jumatate de ora, pana se rumeneste deasupra.

Umplutura de ficatei de pasare (pentru 6-8 clatite umplute)

1 ceapa potrivita, tocata marunt
2 catei de usturoi
1 dovlecel micut dat pe razatoarea mare (face umplutura mai putin uscata; se scurge bine de apa cand e gata de folosit)
2 felii de bacon tocate marunt
500 g ficatei de pasare
1 ou
2 linguri marar proaspat, tocat
sare, piper and ½ lingurita cimbru uscat

225 ml sos de rosii

Se caleste jumatate din ceapa cu baconul si usturoiul, pana se aureste ceapa. Intre timp se spala si curata bine ficateii, se sterg si se condimenteaza cu sare si piper. Se adauga ficateii si cimbrul peste ceapa si se gatesc pana nu mai sunt roz in mijloc, fara sa fie uscati/ prajiti prea tare. Se lasa sa se raceasca, apoi se toaca marunt. Eu nu ii pun la robotel pentru ca ar iesi prea pasta, ca pentru pate, si noua ne place umplutura sa aiba bucatele mai mari.Se caleste restul de ceapa si dovlecelul pana se evapora tot lichidul. Se amesteca dovlecelul, mararul si oul cu ficateii si daca e necesar, se mai adauga sare si piper, dupa gustul fiecaruia.Se umplu fiecare clatita cu vreo 2-3 linguri din amestecul de ficatei si se ruleaza ca un sul.Se unge un vas termorezistent cu unt si se intinde jumatate din sosul de rosii pe fundul vasului. Se pun clatitele una langa alta, si se toarna restul sosului de rosii pe deasupra. Se presara Parmesan ras si patrunjel sau cimbru proaspat pe deasupra si se da la cuptor la 350F (170C) pentru vreo jumatate de ora, pana se rumeneste.
Se servesc imediat cu salata.

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