Many of us have special recipes that are in our lives because they have been passed down from our parents or grandparents, and these recipes are often deliciously wrapped up in our cultural identity. Recipes that are passed down from previous generations can take on an important significance in our lives, as a treasured link to our ancestry, to the passage of time, to the people who lived before us. A simple dish can become a much-needed connection to our roots, and the region and terrain and climate that it was born out of.
My friend Joe recently described such a recipe, one that’s been in his family for a long time, frequently made by his Italian grandmother, passed down to his mom, and then to him.
The recipe is a very traditional one from Abruzzo called Crespelle in Brodo. It consists of crepes served in a hot chicken broth, and I must admit, I was initially quite skeptical. You see, I grew up on crepes. In our house, crepes were the equivalent of Kraft dinner. When my mom didn’t know what to make for dinner, she would whip up a batch of crepes. They were fast, cheap, and the ingredients were always on hand. Usually she’d serve them stuffed with mushrooms or cheese and vegetables, but sometimes sweet crepes with maple syrup or molasses was a perfectly acceptable thing to eat for dinner. To this day, even now that my mom is no longer with us, I do the exact same thing. Crepes are a go-to for me, whether sweet or savoury, made with wheat or buckwheat, rye or whatever whole grain flours I happen to have on hand. But never in my life had I entertained the idea of pouring broth all over them! So when Joe told me about these, I was totally puzzled and intrigued and I knew I had to try them, despite my dubiousness. Well, as you might expect, they were a revelation. A true comfort food, particularly on a cold winter’s day. The crepes soak up the broth and take on a delightful squishy texture, for lack of a better word. The parmesan and the salty broth lend a great satisfying depth of flavour that lingers in the mouth and makes you just want to eat more and more and more.
I was so grateful that Joe allowed me to share his family’s recipe with you all and film him in one of my videos. As with most traditional Italian recipes, there are many subtle variations in the way they are prepared and I’m sure the recipes vary from family to family. Some versions call for a simple light chicken broth. Joe’s version incorporates creamed carrots and potatoes to thicken the broth. The cheese used can vary from parmesan to pecorino romano, and the crepe batter can be prepared with either milk or water. I highly recommend a generous pinch of chopped fresh parsley for the garnish, it adds a lovely burst of flavour and colour!
- 1 whole small organic chicken
- Enough water to cover the chicken (about 8 to 10 cups)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2-3 celery stalks, chopped
- 4-5 cloves of garlic chopped or pressed
- 1 medium potato, peeled and chopped (optional)
- 1 large carrot, chopped (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 6 eggs
- 2 cups flour
- 2 cups cold water
- About 1/4 cup grape seed or sunflower oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- About 3 to 4 cups freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
- Fresh chopped parsley for garnish
- In a large heavy-bottomed stock pot, sauté the chopped onion, celery and garlic over medium heat until translucent and fragrant. Add the whole or chopped chicken and add water to cover. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, for at least 3 hours. About an hour in, as the chicken cooks, you can use scissors to cut it into pieces to extract more flavour.
- After about 3 hours of simmering, strain everything out of the broth. Reserve the chicken meat for sandwiches or other recipes and use the bones to make a bone broth. Compost the veggies. Pour the strained broth back into the pot and if using, add the chopped carrot and potato, cooking for about 20 minutes. Once tender, use an immersion or stand blender to purée them into the broth, which will thicken it slightly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep broth warm on low heat until the crepes are ready.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the salt and flour. Make a well into the centre of the flour and crack all 6 eggs. Whisk together well and gradually add the water, a little at a time, whisking well to avoid lumps. After all the water has been added, if the batter is lumpy, you can run it through a fine-meshed sieve to get rid of any lumps.
- Grease up a heavy skillet, using about 1 tsp oil per crepe. Make the crepes using about 1/8 cup of batter per crepe. Swirl the batter around, cook for about 30 to 60 seconds on each side or until golden and bubbly. If the batter is too thick, add a little more water, a couple tablespoonfuls at a time. Stack the crepes on a large plate.
- Sprinkle a generous handful of grated cheese on each crepe and roll it up into a cigar shape. (Divide the cheese evenly among the crepes but save some for garnish). Place the rolled crepes seam down into a large serving bowl. Serve two to three crepes per person and ladle a generous scoop or two of broth on top of the crepes. Garnish with a little cheese and chopped parsley.
This recipe was originally posted on PBS Food.