In spite of their delicacy, crepes are an easy-to-make foundation for a huge range of family and company dishes. From buckwheat blinis, the classic Russian accompaniment to caviar, to chocolate crepes stuffed with pastry cream and fresh fruit, crepes fit into nearly any meal. Consider crepes for a make-ahead luncheon dish, a hearty casual supper or your next party. Widely varied fillings have a few common elements that make them both easy to eat and delicious.
For cocktail or party treats, small crepes can be folded in quarters, rolled around a filling, then left whole or sliced, or spread with a filling, stacked and cut in wedges like a cake. Combine cream cheese or other fresh cheeses with herbs, shredded smoked salmon, grated vegetables or sharp cheese for a spreadable filling that handles easily as a finger food. Make mini-wraps by spreading crepes with a spicy mustard or relish spread, then layering thin-sliced smoked meats and cheeses. Cut them in halves or quarters for easier handling.
First-course crepes need a small plate and a salad fork and can be rolled or folded. To a filling like shrimp salad, cold roasted vegetables or apple and onion slices sauteed with fresh rosemary or thyme, add a dab of a sauce like homemade aioli, herbed or curry mayonnaise, or balsamic vinegar reduction. This appetizer sets the tone of your meal and readies the palate for the main course. Filling ingredients are pre-cooked and cut in bite-sized pieces, while a sauce accents but does not overwhelm the dish.
Main Dish Crepes
Whether your tastes run toward chicken divan, beef madeira, moo shu pork or Coquilles St. Jacques, crepes are a great foundation for meats and seafood of all kinds. For vegetarian crepes, try ratatouille or a Latin black bean filling. You can adapt any favorite recipe, with the following conditions. Meats and vegetables both need to be in small, fork-sized pieces, to avoid messy cutting. They should also be fully cooked before going into the crepes. Filled crepes go into the oven only to heat and would disintegrate during prolonged baking. Fillings should be moist but not wet, to avoid soaking the crepe, and the dish benefits from a sauce. To adapt a chicken divan recipe, for example, cut cooked chicken and broccoli in small pieces and stir them together with just enough sauce to hold the mixture together. Remaining sauce and garnishes like grated cheese can be put over crepes before oven-warming.
Starting from a base of classic crepes Suzette, dessert crepe ideas rocket off in exciting directions. Dessert recipes often include changes to the basic crepe, adding cocoa, flavoring extracts like lemon or rum, dessert spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, or grated or ground nuts in place of part of the flour. Pastry cream, chocolate or fruit mousse and whipped cream are frequently used fluffy fillings. Fruit recipes range from cinnamon-scented, cheddar-garnished apple-pie ingredients to flambeed Cherries Jubilee. Crepes filled with fresh or poached segments of seasonal fruit need only a dab of whipped cream or sour cream to bring your meal to a healthy, festive end. Serve dessert crepes with several choices of fresh and sweet toppings to turn a neighborhood coffee or club tea into a special occasion.