Crepes, those seemingly innocent sheets of batter, endlessly versatile and much loved by eaters across the globe, have been my sworn enemies for as long as I’ve been tall enough to reach the stove top. Most culinary endeavors spur me on, encourage me to rise to the challenge and tackle whatever crazy concept has become embedded in my brain, but crepes? Crepes managed to elude me, through countless attempts and a hundred different recipes. There’s nothing fancy about the batter, resembling a watery pancake base and incorporating standard pantry staples at its most basic, but my hands always failed me once the pan hit the flame. A whole batch of batter would yield one, maybe two serviceable crepes after an hour or more of labor, dozens of other torn, gooey, sticky flapjack sheets landing in the trash, rather than the plate. It could all be chalked up to a lack of finesse at first, those fumbling memories becoming exacerbated by a lack of confidence. I needed help; a crepe intervention, if you will.
Help came in the form of Rachel Carr, a professional crepe wrangler and chef of Six Main in Chester, Connecticut. Offering a brunch class that featured my old nemesis as a star component, it was just the refresher course I needed. Wrapping up a seasonal melange of asparagus and mushrooms within, she highlighted their versatility, playing to their savory side but leaving options for a sweeter conversion. Packed full of tender green stalks and soft, toothsome sauteed shiitake, bursting with umami, the combination makes a strong case for using crepes beyond the dessert course.
Standing over the industrial stove, nimbly flipping one crepe after another without any drama, my own crepe compunctions no longer seemed quite so insurmountable. What’s more, these were gluten-free crepes, lacking the benefit of a wheat base to hold them together. If this formula was so cooperative, so sturdy, the process of turning the liquid mixture into a pliable wrap must be simply a matter of practice. With years of brunch service under her belt, Rachel could very well churn them out in her sleep.
Thus, I don’t yet have my own twist on them, only the inspiration to strike back out in the world of crepes, gluten-free recipe in hand. Rachel so kindly agreed to share her secret formula, ending years of struggle and hunger, effectively putting crepes back on the menu where they belong.
Asparagus and Mushroom Crepes
Reprinted with Permission from Rachel Carr of Six Main
1 Cup Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Water
1 Teaspoon Coconut Oil
1 Teaspoon Light Agave Nectar
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Bunch (Approximately 3/4 Pound) Asparagus
6 – 8 Shiitake Mushroom Caps, Sliced into Strips
1/4 Large Red Onion, Diced
1 Clove Garlic, Minced
Salt and Pepper, to Taste
1/2 Pound Firm Tofu
1/2 Cup Water
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1 – 1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
2 1/2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/8 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/8 Teaspoon Paprika
1/8 Teaspoon Turmeric (Optional) for Color
Fresh Tarragon, Chives, Scallions, or Parsley, Chopped (Optional)
Whisk together all the ingredients for the crepe batter, until smooth, and set aside.
Prepare the filling by heating the oil in a saute pan over medium heat, and cook all the vegetables until aromatic and slightly soft; 8 – 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the pan from the heat but keep the filling warm.
The hollandaise sauce is made by tossing everything into the blender and pureeing until completely smooth. This can be prepared up to 5 days in advance if stored in the fridge.
Return your attention to the crepe batter, and add up to 1/4 cup of additional water if it has thickened further. It should be the consistency of loose pancake batter, thin enough to spread easily over your pan. Heat a crepe pan or medium skillet with a flat bottom over medium-low heat, and whip the surface very lightly with coconut or olive oil. You don’t need much to prevent it from sticking.
Ladle or pour about 1/4 – 1/3 cup of crepe batter into the pan and swirl it around until the bottom is completely covered. Cook until very lightly browned and the edges begin to curl. Flip the crepe, either using a snap of the wrist or a spatula, and cook the other side briefly, just one or two minutes longer. Slide the finished crepe out of the pan and onto a plate. Fill with the hot mushroom and asparagus mixture, spoon a dollop of the hollandaise on top, and either roll the crepe up or simply fold it in half. Top with an additional drizzle of hollandaise sauce and a sprinkle of fresh herbs, if desired. Repeat until the batter and filling have been used up.
Makes 4 – 6 Filled Crepes
*To convert these to sweet crepes, increase the agave to 2 tablespoons and, obviously, use a more dessert-like filling!