My dad has long made fun of me for reading about something and then feeling like I HAVE to do it, right now! He still claims that the whole reason I wanted to live in New York was based on multiple readings of The Babysitters Club: New York, New York! (He's one to talk - one year he kept saying he wanted a new Lexus because all the dads were getting one. When pressed, he confessed that the dads who were getting them were on TV.....in the Lexus commercials.)
So I suppose it should be no surprise that while I was re-reading Julie and Julia (for like the thousandth time) and I got to the part about her crepe making escapades, I was seized with an overwhelming desire to make Gateau de Crepes a la Florentine, like RIGHT NOW. Gosh darn it, I was going to make a savory cake of crepes filled with cream cheese, spinach and mushrooms. I HAD to. It called to me like the outdoors on a nice day.
Luckily, Abby was coming over to drink wine and watch Buffy. I had idly promised to make her something from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol 1 when she gave it to me as a wedding present and this seemed like a perfect time to make good on that. So here we go!
Gateau de Crepes a la Florentine!
It's a pretty dish, yes? Spoiler Alert: It is really good. How does it come to be? Well, I'll tell you.
First, you put 1 cup cold water, 1 cup cold milk, 4 eggs and 1/2 tsp salt in a blender (I broke out my blender from what I am now calling "present corner." I'm scared to unpack too much in fear that we're going to move at any moment and I'll just have to pack it all up again. But I really wanted to use the blender. Caution be dammed). Then I added 1 1/2 cups flour and 4 Tbs melted butter. I blended it for 1 minute, scraped the excess down the sides with a sparkly pink spatula and blended again for a few more seconds. I stuck the whole thing in the fridge and went to the gym. And the grocery store.
When I got back, it was time to make crepes. Julia says to rub a skillet with a piece of bacon and set it over moderately high heat until it's just beginning to smoke.
Yeah, yeah, I can already hear my dad saying "why do you have to post pictures of disgusting meat and ruin nice vegetarian dishes with bacon?" To him and his supporters I say "just use some oil then! This is my blog. We do things my way around here."
This part is hard to explain and a little tricky. Remove the pan from the heat and pour 1/4 cup of batter into the middle of the pan. Tilt it around so that the batter is spread out thin and evenly. This all happens really fast - a few seconds. Return it to the heat for about a minute or until the edges slightly crinkle up.
Flip it over and brown for about 30 more seconds. This side will brown more spottily than the first side, but that's okay.
Move it onto a rack to cool...
Then stack the finished crepes on a plate.
I was expecting the whole process to be stressful and complicated, but honestly? It was kind of a breeze. I got into a crepe flipping zone and I felt really calm and happy. Of course, then I felt a little weird about feeling the best I've felt all week while I was doing a massively complicated cooking project for no reason. There may be something wrong with me.
Anyways, next you make a Sauce Mornay which is a fancy name for a white sauce with cheese.
Cook 5 Tbs flour and 4 Tbs butter in a pot for 2 minutes. You don't want it to brown - just meld together.
Take it off the heat and add 2 3/4 cups of boiling milk (I heated mine up in the microwave because I was out of small pots) and 1/2 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper and a big pinch of nutmeg. Return it to the heat and boil it for one minute while stirring.
Reduce it to a simmer and add 1/4 cup cream one tsp at a time. Then stir in 1 cup of grated "Swiss" cheese. When Julia says "Swiss" she does not mean gross white cheese with holes. She means Gruyere or possibly Emmental. I had Gruyere in the fridge, so that's what went in my sauce. It was really thick.
Next you make the fillings. This is quite the long process. There's a reason people don't cook like this anymore - it takes several hours and every dish you own. But it's worth it.
Saute a chopped shallot in 2 Tbs of butter. Add 1 1/2 cups blanched, chopped spinach (or a thawed package of frozen spinach if you're a lazy bastard like me) and 1/4 tsp salt and cook for about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 - 2/3 cup of the Sauce Mornay. Cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes. That's one filling done. Also, I forgot to take a picture - shhhhhh.
Mash up 8 oz cream cheese with an egg and salt and pepper. Set aside. Saute 1 cup of minced mushrooms (I used shiitake) and another chopped shallot in 1 Tbs butter and 1/2 Tbs olive oil. Mix them into the cream cheese. You're also supposed to add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the Sauce Mornay to the whole thing, but I didn't because I wasn't reading the directions closely. But it still tasted great in the end.
Okay, here comes the fun part. Take a round deep baking dish and butter it. Lay one crepe across the bottom.
Spread a layer of mushroom filling over the crepe.
Put another crepe on top of it and spread the spinach filling over it.
Repeat until all the crepes and fillings are gone.
Yeah, it's tall. Now here comes the insane part - pour the rest of the cheese sauce on top of the crepe stack and dot with butter and some more grated cheese.
At this point, I freaked out and was sure I made too much sauce and/or ruined the dish. But I baked it for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and lo and behold.....
IT WAS FREAKING AWESOME. The layers were super pretty, all green and cheesy and delicious. I mean, look at those layers.
Abby really liked it. We ate half the dish. And a bottle of Prosecco. Whoops. And then we ate some jam tart - but that's a post for another day.
Okay, sorry, I can't help myself. Bon Appetit!