Buckwheat Crêpes with Leek Jam
On this rainy day holiday weekend we went to the Hartford Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, an unjustly overlooked institution with an astounding number of Old Master paintings, sculpture, and antiquities, as well as an eye-popping collection of traditional and contemporary American art. The museum has an impressive collection of precious furniture, silver, ceramics, relics, and objets. Its curators have found the most ingenious way to display its extensive holdings of small objects (donated to the Wadsworth by J.P. Morgan in 1917) in a current exhibition Cabinet of Art and Curiosity, which explores the European tradition of the curio cabinet. The tiniest items, coins, ivories, jewelry, are laid out in drawers. The viewer is invited to create their own virtual curio cabinet, which is really fun.
I came home inspired to inventory my kitchen cabinet of curiosities. We all have them. The thermogenesis that is a jar of salsa we got on vacation and now terrified to open, or that Azerbaijani plum sauce found in an international food store. And the flax seeds we bought at that "health" store in town that smells like a warm shoe. These are a few selections from my cabinet of culinary curiosities. I did not include the many discolored, gelatinous substances I found in the back of the fridge in unlabeled containers, all of which I think may be duck fat.
I bought this rice in an Italian imported food shop at Atwater market in Montreal last summer. I don't want to share what I paid for this 500 g bag of rice, but it looked mysteriously delicious. I once bought black barley at Fairway in New York City. It was fantastic, but when I returned to Fairway to buy more, employees there said that not only did they not have any black barley, that the store had never carried this item, and that black barley actually did not exist. Impressive bit of gaslighting, Fairway.
I bought this black vinegar to make a dipping sauce for pot stickers. The pot stickers were a roaring success--we completely disgraced ourselves and ate way too many of them. I need to find some other dishes for this vinegar. This item has potential for alternate uses. I just wish I knew how to cook more Chinese food.
I am obsessed with ramps, and recently learned it is uncool to buy them. Ramps only grow wild and have been over-foraged in recent years. This ketchup looks very good, but I have yet to open it. I don't have many uses for ketchup, since I am not much of a hamburger eater. What should I try this on?
I thought this was malted milk and when I brought it home discovered it was an Indian almond milk drink mix. I think it could be good in smoothies or desserts. Buying things by mistake seems to be the primary means of stocking my pantry. I have three different bags of lentilles de Puy because they are hard to find and so I am always convinced I need them. I also have, inexplicably, several unopened bottles of corn syrup. Why? Why?
This is the dodgiest of my curiosities. How did this end up in my cupboard? Everyone HATES carob. How many of us who grew up in the 1970s were fooled into tasting it by being told "it tastes like chocolate"? And it requires another visit to that aforementioned store that smells like warm shoes. Carob syrup is a totally different thing. I went through a brief obsession with pomegranate molasses, and even made my own at home (it's just boiling down pomegranate juice) but have never mustered the same interest in carob molasses. It needs to find its purpose in my kitchen.
If anyone has any bright ideas for what to do with these items, please let me know in the comments.
In anticipation of Shrove Tuesday this week, I decided to try some new fillings for buckwheat crêpes. In France (and in Québec) these are known as crêpes de sarrasin, and typically have savory fillings. They are a great show-offy dish for weekend lunch guests and are easy to make. These crêpes are filled with leek jam and gruyère cheese. Leek jam was an idea that came to me when I saw a lot of leeks in the fridge that I had intended to make into soup and did not get around to it. Chopped leeks, sautéed in butter and balsamic vinegar, and cooked until they become soft and carmelized creates a salty-sweet plummy 'jam.'
For the crêpes:
1 cup buckwheat flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk (low fat milk would work, too)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/2 to 3/4 cup water
For the jam:
4 large leeks
2 tablespoons butter or oil
2 tablespoons of sweet balsamico di Modena
1/4 tsp of salt
grated Gruyère cheese
Combine all the ingredients (except water) in a blender, and blend until smooth. If you don't want to use a blender, you can also whisk them together with a whisk.
Cover the batter and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
When you're ready to make crêpes, thin the batter with water, using less water for thicker crêpes and more water for thinner ones.
Preheat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly grease the pan with butter or oil, then pour in the batter. I do not have one of those nifty crêpe spreaders, so just swirl the batter around to thinly coat the bottom of the pan.
Cook the crêpe for 1 to 2 minutes on the first side, until it's golden and lifts from the pan easily. Flip and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes on the other side. Not gonna lie: this part frequently involves much storming around and cursing with the first couple off crêpes. Every time.
Transfer cooked crêpes to a plate, stacking them on top of one another with a bit of parchment paper between them. Or finish each crêpe for serving right away by going right to the next step and adding the filling.
Slice leeks into quarters and chop into 1/8 inch pieces.
Heat butter in non stick pan and add salt.
When leeks soften, add balsamic vinegar.
Cover and cook for a few minutes, until leeks release their moisture
Uncover and continue to cook until the leeks start to turn a deep color and break down, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes
Be sure to stir and scape up any fond on the bottom of pan.
Reheat skillet with a bit of butter or oil and place a crêpe in it. Add a few spoonfuls of jam and grated Gruyêre. Fold over and let cook until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
My crêpes taste great, but they are not camera-ready, so I have photos of the blinis I made with the left over batter. They are topped with a bit of crème fraiche, parsley, and pepper.