In the United States, the popularity of the creperie—a restaurant serving only crepes in a multitude of ways—died a slow death in the 1970’s and more’s the pity. Luckily, the French are not so fickle. On the streets of Paris the creperie is very much alive and well.
The most famous crepes, made with buckwheat, come from Brittany, where buckwheat has been grown since the Middle Ages. In fact, there is no actual ‘wheat’ in buckwheat; it is not even a grain at all. Rather, the flour, both dark and light, is made from the seeds of an herb in the knotweed family that grows best in poor soil without pesticides or fertilizer. In addition to its clean cultivation formula, buckwheat is a treasure trove of nutrition. Recipe testing favored the lighter colored buckwheat over the dark gray flour for the home kitchen.
As you would expect from French traditionalists, the particulars can be, well, very particular. The preferred method is to use a bilic, a kind of heavy cast-iron griddle that can be heated to very high temperatures. A special t-shaped wooden tool is used to spread the batter evenly. Depending on locale (north versus south) wheat flour and egg may be added to the batter. Either way, the batter is earthy and nutty, and lends itself to numerous savory and sweet fillings. You could just as easily choose a strawberry, rhubarb and ice cream filling as the classic filling of ham, cheese, and egg.
Fear not. You won’t have to turn your kitchen into a creperie to enjoy this galette. All you will need are a large, non-stick skillet, a ladle, a long metal spatula, a rubber spatula, and a teensy bit of courage to make your first galette. If you don’t want to attempt spreading the egg white as described in step three, you can leave well enough alone and the egg will cook given a little more time at a lower temperature. Once you have made your first crepe there is no turning back. Bon appetit is firmly in your future.
Galette Bretonne with egg, ham, cheese, and asparagus
1 1/2 cups light buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups water
1/3 cup sparkling water or beer
Additional sparkling water as needed
1. In a bowl, vigorously whisk the flour, salt, plain water, and egg together until smooth and a few bubbles appear on the surface. Whisk in the sparkling water or beer until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
2. Remove the batter and bring to room temperature. Add more sparkling water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the batter is the consistency of heavy cream.
16 thin asparagus spears
4 tablespoons lightly salted butter, melted
2 cups grated Comté cheese
4 slices of ham, each cut into 2 or 3 pieces
Finely chopped chives (for garnish)
Smoked paprika (for garnish)
1. In a large skillet, bring 1 inch of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook for 3 minutes, or until tender. Drain. Cut into 3-inch pieces.
2. Over high heat, heat a 12-inch non-stick skillet until hot. Add 2 teaspoons of the melted butter, and swirl to coat the pan. Pour in 2/3 cup of the batter, and quickly tilt the pan to thinly cover the surface. Place on the burner and decrease the heat to medium.
3. Break one egg into the middle of the galette. With the fingertips of one hand, gently hold the yolk in place while you spread the white out over the crepe with a long metal spatula. Cook for 1 minute, or until the egg white starts to set. Sprinkle one-fourth of the cheese around the yolk. Arrange one fourth of the ham pieces on top of the cheese, and distribute one-fourth of the asparagus on top. Let cook for about 3 minutes, or until the cheese melts and the egg whites are cooked. The yolk will still be soft. Sprinkle the yolk with paprika and chives.
4. With a flexible rubber spatula, loosen the edges of the galette all around the pan. Fold four edges of the galette in toward the egg to make a square but do not cover the egg. Brush the edges with melted butter and serve. Repeat with remaining batter, eggs, ham, cheese and asparagus.