By Danielle Crittenden Frum
In our quest for a better blintz for Shavuot, I looked toward France — and specifically Normandy, ground zero for the world’s best crepes. A blintz, after all, is an Eastern European take on a French crepe. It employs sweetened cheese and usually a fruit topping. And yet — as readers know — I find the result unfailingly disgusting. I know many of you disagree with me, and have even upbraided me on Twitter for my dislike of the fat, fried Polish/Russian variation.
So here is my compromise. I emailed my friend Jens Korberg who, with his partner, Bruno Francois, run The Old Third winery in beautiful, rural Prince Edward County, Ontario. As Bruno’s last name suggests, he is of French origin, specifically from the small town of Yquelon, Normandy, where his grandfather made cider and Calvados. A couple of years ago, Bruno figured out that the same land he was growing his Pinot Noir grapes upon was also perfect for cultivating “the noble Golden Russet,” an apple that produces an especially dry and sophisticated cider. Now the winery produces cider as well — and, reaching further back into his culture, Bruno last summer set up a true Normandy-style crepe stand for Old Third visitors. The crepes are a natural companion to the cider (I’ll vouch to the wine as well). Yet it fell to the Swedish-born Jens, the chef of the pair, to come up with a weekly seasonal recipe for the crepes. I remembered — indeed, could still taste — a blueberry and ricotta version he created. Jens wrote me back with the recipe, which appears below. His crepe batter is perfection: it produces light and lacy crapes with a toasty edge. The filling is minimal: only a couple of tablespoons of both cheese and fruit are needed per crepe. The result is more like pastry than overstuffed crepe. If this can qualify for a blintz, then I LOVE BLINTZES.
NOTE: Before making these, I ran out and bought an 11-inch Staub crepe pan — which comes with the traditional wooden spreader and spatula. The spreader took a few spoiled crepes to master but I really enjoyed it. You can also make the crepes in a heavy cast-iron pan (suggest 9-11 inches in diameter). Swirl the batter around thinly and evenly, and then follow the directions below.
Makes for approx. 12 crepes
For the batter:
1-2 large pinches of salt
4 cups milk
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 oz (4 tbs) unsalted butter
Olive oil (for frying the crepes)
In a large bowl, add eggs, salt and one cup of milk. Sift in some of the flour and whisk until smooth. Add another cup of milk and some more flour and repeat until all flour and milk is added. (I used the whisk attachment on my immersion blender, which worked well.)
In a small sauce pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Keep it on the heat until it foams and big bubbles start to form. Take it off the heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes. It will continue to brown.
While whisking, slowly add the butter to the batter. Continue to whisk until well mixed. Let rest in the fridge for a minimum of two hours, or overnight. Stir well before using.
For the filling:
2 cups blueberries (frozen or fresh)
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 cup sugar
Zest from 1/2 lime
1 tsp good vanilla extract
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2/3 cup extra smooth ricotta cheese
2 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp sugar
Honey and fresh chopped mint for finish
In a medium sauce pot, add the first six the ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10-15 min, stirring occasionally. The blueberries will melt into a delicious soupy jam sauce.
When thickened, set aside and let cool slightly. Press through a sieve if you want it smooth. Meanwhile mix the ricotta, lemon juice and sugar in a medium bowl until combined.
Making and assembling the crepes:
Heat your crepe pan over medium heat until nice and hot (I found a true medium, over a gas flame, was the perfect temperature for the crepes. You may have to experiment a little: the crepes should neither scorch quickly nor be too slow to brown.)
Take a clean dischloth, roll it up, and then tie an elastic or piece of string a couple of inches from one end, creating a puffy applicator with which to spread the oil on the hot pan. When the pan is ready, pour in a tablespoon or so of the olive oil, and then use the cloth to spread the oil evenly around on the surface.
Ladle the batter onto the pan and swirl it quickly so it evenly coats the pan, or use a spreader (depending on the size of the pan, you will need 1-2 ladles of batter — again this is something you will need to experiment with. Just be prepared to write off the first few crepes. Your dog will be happy). It doesn’t have to be a perfect circle although you will feel irrational, French-like pride if it is.
Check the edges as they brown and, using a thin spatula or the wooden crepe turner, carefully lift the crepe to see if it is evenly brown. If so, turn it over. The crepes aren’t as delicate as you think, and when cooked on one side they are amenable to being flipped. When the other side is spottily brown it’s ready for filling. (For reasons I couldn’t understand, the first side always looked better than the second, so flip it over again so the spotty side will be on the interior when you fill it.)
Take a couple of tablespoons of the ricotta mixture and smear over the center-top of the crepe. Spoon some of the blueberry mixture in the same position on top. Then, like a crepe Maestro, use the spatula to fold the bottom up first, then fold over the two sides. (As you can see in the photo, the top half of the crepe is kept open.) Immediately remove to a plate, drizzle with honey and chopped mint. Start the next one right away, oiling the pan as needed after every few crepes.
We like to eat them right off the pan, assembly-line fashion, but if you want to prepare a bunch in advance, make a stack of crepes and let cool. Then, when ready to proceed, bring the sauce and ricotta to room temperature, fire up the crepe pan again and lightly warm each crepe. Remove to plates, and fill and fold as directed.