Two weeks ago we featured a wonderful post by APPCA member Jim Huff, describing the development of his recipe for his Nutella Banana Bread Bread Pudding. Recipe development is a key part of being a personal chef as you adapt ideas into dishes that both represent your culinary point of view and address client preferences or dietary needs. Maybe you have a concept in mind—transforming a traditional dish with gluten into something equally delicious but gluten free. Or you love a concept for a recipe but the ingredients either aren’t seasonally available or not regionally available.
So, you work it. You substitute ingredients, adjust amounts, and eventually voila! You have your your dish. But sometimes you give it a good try and it fails. Dismally. Then what? Well, you keep going to find a solution or—if it becomes clear the original concept is a nonstarter—you just move on. Here’s an example:
Will Gustwiller is a chef I know in San Diego. He started out as a truffle maker, which is when we became acquainted. But his interests were broader and he started branching out, incorporating chocolate of all kinds into savory dishes. His place, Eclipse Chocolat, started hosting special chocolate dinners. About four years ago he moved to a larger space in a nearby neighborhood which gave him the opportunity to create a sit-down cafe with a regular menu.
I joined him one day while he was working on a new concept for a savory cocoa buckwheat crepe. Not unlike your own kitchen when you’re experimenting with dishes, we had a hell of a time with a variation Gustwiller was trying with the crepe. He wanted to make it both vegan and gluten-free. The gluten-free part we had down. We were using buckwheat after all. But we found that soy milk and going egg free just didn’t work. Not only did it not come together well, it tasted dreadful. So, out that batch went. We tried some other options but they, too, failed. It was clear this wasn’t the day this recipe was going to turn vegan so we moved on and went back to his tried-and-true batter with dairy. You’ve probably had that experience in one way or another, too.
But the good news is that this is still a wonderful dish. The crepe has minimal sugar so not only does it work well in savory dishes, it doesn’t overwhelm a sweet dessert filling (like the strawberries I intend to try the recipe out on). Once we reverted back to the original recipe, it took less than an hour to get all three components together and ready to eat. One of the secrets to its success is filling the crepe, folding it into quarters, then putting it in the oven briefly to crisp the pancake’s edges. The result is a firm crepe with a hint of cocoa. The creamy shallot filling is sweet from the caramelized shallots and Riesling but just a bit tart from the crème fraiche. Topping it off with the mushrooms adds another dimension of flavor with a little bite from the fresh green onions. It’s rich, but not overwhelmingly so for a first course. This is definitely something you should make if you’re catering dinner parties or brunch.
Savory Cocoa Buckwheat Crepe with Shallot Filling and Mushroom Sauce
from Will Gustwiller
This crepes make a terrific first course for a dinner party or main course for brunch.
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup skim milk
1 1/4 cup water (thin as needed)
Whisk together ingredients and strain to remove clumps. Since there’s no gluten, there’s no need to rest the batter but you can refrigerate before using if you want to make it ahead of time.
Heat a nonstick sauté or crepe pan, spray with a little vegetable oil. Ladle in about a quarter cup of the batter and swirl it around the bottom of the pan. Depending on the pan size you may need to add a little more batter. When the edges start to curl and the crepe has set, flip it over and let it finish cooking briefly, then flip onto a plate. You can separate the crepes with wax paper. (You can also freeze cooked crepes, layered with wax paper.)
For shallot filling:
1 cup shallots, diced
1/4 cup butter
1 cup Riesling wine
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
salt to taste
1/2 cup crème fraiche
Caramelize shallots in butter and deglaze with the wine. Remove from the heat and finish with remaining ingredients. Set aside.
For mushroom sauce:
1 cup + cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup + Riesling wine
4 green onion tops, sliced
salt to taste
Sauté the mushrooms in a pan with plenty of room. Deglaze with wine and season to finish. Top with green onion slices.
Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees F. On a flat crepe, add a couple of tablespoons of the shallot filling and spread the filling over the entire crepe. Fold into quarters. Place on a baking sheet and put into the oven for five minutes. Remove and plate the crepes. Top with the mushroom sauce and serve immediately.
Do you have a recipe you’re still trying to perfect? Share your story! Maybe a colleague has an idea for getting it to work.
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