It was only retrospectively that I discovered that my last blog post was my 50th one. Not to say anything bad a vegetable rice soup recipe I wrote up but it doesn’t really have the “sex appeal” necessary for a 50th blog post. That was bad planning on my part obviously.
So I figured my next meal needed to be a bit on the “fancier” side. And what could be more fancy and impressive sounding than some chicken crepes. Crepes are one of those things people tell you not to make if you don’t have the right pan or the necessary tools, but I’ve found that to be a complete lie.
I only learned this a couple summers ago when I roomed with someone from England for an internship. She would make “pancakes” every Saturday. But these weren’t the good-ole American pancakes, these were British pancakes. So they were crepes. Essentially. I’m sure if I looked into it there may be some tiny difference between the British pancake and a French crepe just because of historical rivalries between France and Britain. But that’s not something I’m particularly concerned with.
So this recipe name is, admittedly, a bit of a misnomer since I use a pancake recipe instead of a “crepe” recipe, but crepe sounds fancier and they look identical.
I ramble about crepes but that’s not really where this multi-component dish begins. It begins with the cooking of the chicken. There are many ways to cook a chicken, but for this dish I opted for a relatively quick poaching method. Poaching is probably a relatively common way to cook chicken if you don’t have to worry about crisping chicken skin or forming a crust of some sort because it’s just so easy. After all, it just involves boiling the chicken in liquid.
Now the cardinal sin of poaching would be to just boil the chicken in water. Plain old, vanilla water. That does nothing for you or your chicken. It’s important to, at the very least, season your water or whatever liquid you choose to use. I poached my chicken in chicken broth for two reasons. First is of course that the chicken will have more flavor and the second is because I can rebottle that chicken stock and use it for something else.
But it’s still important to impart some flavor into the boxed chicken stock. To do that, I started with a very basic spread of elements, but this can be tweeked based on preference. To my poaching pot, I threw in salt, peppercorn, bay leaves, a couple garlic cloves, and some lemon zest. Then I added my chicken stock to the pot, gave it a good stir and let it heat up.
I let the chicken stock and other stuff boil together for a little but before adding the chicken. This is just to let those extra flavors disperse into the stock itself so that when we add the chicken it’ll absorb all those nice flavors too. After which I threw the chicken in and let to simmer for about 20 minutes to get a nice moist and flavorful chicken.After this cooled down a little bit, I shredded it up into more bite sized pieces for the crepe filling.
For this recipe I used a bone-in chicken thigh. Which is why it takes about 25 minutes for the meat to cook through. Poaching doesn’t actually take all that much time and depends on the cut of chicken you opt to use. A chicken breast will only take about 15 to 18 minutes depending on the size of the breast. Regular chicken thighs (no bone) will only take a bit longer than breasts, about 20 minutes. So be careful not to poach the chicken to death.
Another important facet of poaching is that you’re not boiling it. When poaching, the liquid shouldn’t be a rolling boil but just a light simmer. Boiling the chicken will cause it to dry out more easily, especially if you’re cooking chicken breast which dries out more easily than dark meat in general.
But with the chicken poaching, I moved onto the sauce that will go over the crepes. This was a very simple bechamel sauce with provolone cheese and spinach. For this sauce I combined two different kinds of provolone. I found some applewood smoked provolone one sale and used half of that with some regular provolone. Obviously when recreating this you can use all of one or the other, I just didn’t want to spend too much on the applewood smoked provolone but definitely wanted the flavor.
A bechamel is a very basic sauce technique that is really used as a base for a lot of creamy sauces. All a bechamel really entails is a roux mixed with water. To start it off, I sauteed the onions in all that healthy butter until the onions were translucent. Then it was time to make the roux. I threw the flour into the pot and stirred it around. I let the flour, butter, and onions cook for a couple minutes to ensure that all the flour taste would cook out so it doesn’t end up in the sauce.
After that I poured in the dairy. Traditional bechamels use only milk. But the milk I have is fat free and that’s not really all that great for sauces. Instead I had to compensate for my milk’s lack of fat by adding some half & half. The half & half will just make the sauce have a better consistency overall.
I let the pot come to a simmer so that the sauce would start to thicken up a little bit. After simmering for a couple minutes I added in the spinach. After stirring that in and letting it cook down a bit, I added the shredded provolone cheese. I did this a little at a time, making sure to whisk as I went. This will prevent the cheese from falling to the bottom of the pan and just sticking there. Nothing’s worse than having to scrap off cheese burned to the bottom of a pot.
Then I just finished the sauce with a little bit of fresh rosemary and parsley. At this point the sauce is pretty much done. I let it sit on low and hang out while I made the crepes and prepared everything else for plating.
Finally it’s time for the crepes. As with anything that involves mixing your own batter, I really don’t do anything that would deviate from a regular recipe. And because this recipe has an almost 5 star rating on allrecipes with about 2000+ reviews, I typically trust it. I say typically because, like any batter, I always feel like the actual amount of liquid I need is different from the recipe. When I used this recipe I had to add more water to get it to a desired thinness. But I’m sure my modified crepe recipe won’t work for others either. It’s all about getting it to your desired consistency.
Aside from the actual consistency problem, crepe batter is pretty simple, add the flour, egg, melted butter, milk, water, and salt to a bowl and whisk it together. That’s it. It’s done.
Now it’s time for making the actual crepes. Unfortunately it’s not quite as simple as pancakes where you slob a spoonful of batter on a griddle. To make crepes, you lightly grease a pan and pour a little bit of the batter (probably about ¼ cup) into the center of the pan. Then you lift it off the heat and tilt the pan to get the batter to cover as much of the pan as you can. Put it back onto the heat and let it cook on one side for a couple minutes, flip, and let it cook on the other side for another few minutes. And there you have it, crepes.
Repeat an obscene amount of times until your crepe batter is all used up. The good thing about crepes is that even if you don’t use them all, you can just refrigerate them and use them like pancakes for breakfast the next day.
The final step before finally getting to dig into this monster of a recipe is the assembly. What I did was place a crepe on the plate and arrange the chicken in a line in the center of the crepe. Then I topped the chicken with a little bit of the sauce. Fold the crepe over like a burrito (or I guess a crepe) and turn it onto the other side, fold side down. Then I just made another one for good plating. Finally, top your crepes with the sauce and maybe a little extra provolone if you have it and viola! Crepes!
Chicken Spinach Crepes
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
- 3 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
- 1 tbs black peppercorn
- 1 tbs salt
- 1 tbs lemon zest (zest of whole lemon)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups unsalted chicken broth
Provolone Bechamel Sauce
- ½ yellow onion
- 5 tbs butter
- 4 tbs flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- Pinch nutmeg
- 2 cups half & half
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 lb provolone
- 2 tbs fresh rosemary, chopped
- 2 tbs fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup milk
- ¾ cup water
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tbs butter, melted
- Combine peppercorn, salt, lemon zest, bay leaves, and chicken broth in a pot
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and simmer for 10-15 minutes
- Add chicken to pot and poach for 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through
- Remove chicken from pot and shred
- Melt butter in a large pot
- Saute onions in butter until onions are semi-translucent, about 5 minutes
- Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and cook for another 2-3 minutes
- Whisk in milk and half & half, bring to a simmer and whisk until sauce begins to thicken, 3-5 minutes
- Add in spinach and cook for another 2 minutes or so
- Stir in provolone, a little at a time, until all of the cheese is melted into the sauce
- Finish with rosemary and parsley
- Reduce heat to low and let sit until everything else is finished
- In a bowl combine flour, egg, melted butter, milk, water, and salt
- Heat a pan over medium heat and grease lightly with butter or olive oil
- Place ~¼ cup of the batter in the center of the pan
- Remove pan from heat and tilt to get batter to cover entire bottom of the pan
- Cook crepes for 2 minutes on each side