Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mushroom-Filled Crepe Purses

No question about it, I love having a day to play with food and photos, and there’s no better way to spend a wet, windy morning while we’re at anchor waiting out a gale. The wind howled through the tall timber along the ridges surrounding our snug little cove while raindrops pelted the saltwater and played a heavy staccato beat on the hatch covers. Who cared? My focus was dialed in to messing about in the galley.

I scouted through lockers, pantry, cabinets and fridge to see what ingredients looked promising. With no particular recipe in mind I decided to work with fresh items that needed be used up… soon… and adapt some recipe to fit. The fridge yielded a paper sack with some ordinary button mushrooms, a large Ziploc bag of thin, crepe-sized Swedish pancakes, several bunches of green onions and fat handful of flat-leaf parsley. I found pine nuts in the freezer and an assortment of fresh herbs growing in pots outside and inside the cabin. Ummmm, no, forget the big herb pot; the day’s downpour required full rain gear to venture outside and harvest anything on the upper deck. That left basil and mint as my other flavor choices.

Memories surfaced of a memorable meal that friend V prepared for us a year or two ago at her Quadra Island home. Her first course featured crepe purses, impressive on the plate and a tasty start to a delicious multi-course meal. Could super thin Swedish pancakes substitute for crepes? It was worth a try, I could always whip up a fast batch of crepes if the Swedish pancake experiment didn’t work out.

Why is that crepes look like fancy party food while Swedish pancakes seem more ordinary, like family fare? Whether served rolled, folded or flat, crepes and thin pancakes are really quite similar. Ah, but presentation can change perception. Crepe (or pancake) purses look special, a touch of elegant whimsy, a surprise package tied up with green ribbon.  Appearances aside, it’s really all about the delicious filling.

This filling began as another Jacques Pepin recipe, tweaked and adjusted as we sampled it over and over, while it cooked and as it cooled. Just taste-testing you know. It was not wildly different than any typical sautéed ‘shrooms recipe with a handful of herbs and pine nuts added. Who can resist mushrooms and butter? Chop and mince, sauté and stir, taste and adjust: pretty simple steps for this very tasty filling. Shaping the purse proved simple as well, thanks to JP's suggested use of a small bowl as a mold.

RL reports that a lemon wedge is essential as a finishing touch, just a squirt of juice provides a tart contrast to the mellow, buttery  ‘shrooms. He did volunteer to test any filling variations, but would be happy if I didn’t mess with this recipe too much.

Bonus note for a terrific pasta sauce:
Sauté minced garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil; toss in a cup or two of leftover filling and cook to heat. Toss with warm, cooked pasta (add a tablespoon or two of reserved pasta water if you need a little more liquid). Serve and top with more minced herbs and some shaved parmesan. OMG, this was gooooood! (also faster and easier than filling purses)

Mushroom-Filled Crepe Purses
Adapted from Jacques Pepin’s Simple and Healthy Cooking and a host of online sources

Long strips scallion greens (to tie the crepe purses)
1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter
½ small onion, peeled, in small dice
¼ cup pine nuts
1 pound button mushrooms, cleaned, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or green onions
½ teaspoon Chipotle Tabasco or green Tabasco sauce
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
white or black pepper to taste
a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
a handful of fresh basil leaves, minced
6 to 10 thin savory crepes (or thin Swedish pancakes)
lemon wedges to accompany

Soften the long green tops of green onions with boiling water; drain, pat dry and set aside. (You can boil them in a pot on the stovetop for a few seconds, or pour boiling water over them and let them sit for a bit, or put them in water and use the microwave to briefly nuke them.) If they are really tough and wide, slice them vertically into two strips to use as ties.

For the Filling
Heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat in a nonstick skillet until the butter melts, but don’t let it sizzle. Add the onions and cook a minutes or two until the onions just soften, then add the pine nuts and cook for two more minutes or until the pine nuts begin to brown.

Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally until their juices evaporate, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the chives, Tabasco, sugar, salt, pepper and minced herbs and remove the skillet from the heat.

To Construct
Heat a single crepe or ultra-thin pancake in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. Drape in a small ramekin or custard cup to form a bowl; place a heaping tablespoon of filling in the center. Gently gather up the sides of the crepe to form a bundle; twist a green onion strip around the top and knot it to hold the bundle closed. Repeat with the remaining crepes, filling and greens.

To Serve
Place one or two bundles on each small plate and heat briefly in the microwave before serving. (My micro took 30 seconds for 2 filled pouches on a salad plate.) Serve with a lemon wedge; sprinkle the plate with a dusting of minced fresh herbs for a fancy presentation.

Some Notes
I always have extra Swedish pancake batter leftover, no matter how I adjust the recipe. Skillet-sized thin Swedish pancakes, stored flat in the fridge or frozen and then defrosted, are a perfect substitute for crepes in this recipe. Just be sure the batter is thin and you tilt and twist the pan to spread it out for even distribution.

Other filling ideas:
… wilted greens, roasted peppers, goat cheese and toasted pine nuts. …cream cheese, chutney, mint, lemon zest and roasted chicken.
…Brie or blue cheese, honey, walnuts and sliced pears.
…smoked fish, sour cream, chives and horseradish.
…sauteed shrimp or crab, fennel and shaved parmesan.
…mushrooms, white beans, rosemary and sausage.
…the list goes on, and we haven't touched on the idea of sweet crepe bundles!


  1. Beautiful! Such an elegant presentation! Loved it!

    1. Thanks, Sally. Elegant and easy is a great combination.


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