Saturday, February 22, 2020

Rosie Makes Julia's Gâteau Of Crêpes.

Julia Child holds a special place in my heart.  I started cooking with Julia.  I became a cook with Julia.  Back in the 70s, I'd close up shop early on Saturday afternoons and head home to my apartment and cat, Annie, turn on my black and white 9-inch TV which I'd bought for $5 (a STEAL!), and turn to PBS.  And Julia.  First, Julia and Company.  Then, Julia and More Company.  I was transfixed.  I'd sit with a legal pad and pen and scribble her ingredients and instructions down as fast as I could.  (No VCRs back then.) And then I would cook.  I was hooked.  Everything she made, I'd say to myself, "Self?  You can do that!"  That was the magic of Julia.  She made it seem effortless.  And I found out I COULD do that.  The rest is history.

Fast forward to today, and I'm still Cooking With Julia.
My all-time favorite Julia dish is her Gâteau des Crêpes.  It's a layered dish - layers of carrots, mushrooms, and broccoli, divided and encased by crêpes, and bound together with a custard and Swiss cheese.  It is sublime.

 I still make it to this day.  Thinking back on it, I don't know how in the world she did this in a 30 minute episode back in the day.  But somehow she pulled it all together quite marvelously.  If you decide to make this, please don't try and do it in one day.  One could do it in a day, I imagine, but one would need to be a masochist of the highest order.  I usually take two days for this.  Sometimes three if I'm feeling lazy.  The first day, I make the crêpes.  The second day, I prepare the vegetables.  You could assemble and cook it on the second day or wait until the third day for that.  Once it's assembled, it needs to be cooked immediately.  After cooking and resting for a few moments, it is inverted on the serving platter, unmolded, and then can be sliced and served.

 And that brings me back to a most unpleasant memory - the day I came quite close to assaulting Mr. Hawthorne.  It was Thanksgiving.  Somewhere back in the 80s.  We had a houseful of guests.  I had a turkey.  I had a ham.  I had homemade rolls.  I had mushroom gravy.  I had a sweet potato casserole.  I had a green bean casserole.  I had a bunch of other sides as well, although the day is somewhat of a blur now.  And I had Julia's Gâteau.  I had just brought it out of the oven and it was resting for its requisite time.  And that's when Mr. Hawthorne entered the picture.  As my beautiful gâteau was sitting on the counter (not yet set and before being inverted onto a serving platter), all puffed up with a crown of crêpes on top (after three days of preparation),  an impatient Mr. Hawthorne approached MY gâteau with a huge serving spoon and proceeded to disembowel the gâteau and SCOOP himself out a large spoonful.  If I'd had a knife in my hand, neither one of us would be here today.  Or maybe I would, because I think I'd be out of jail by now.  My screams were heard throughout the neighborhood and my guests stared, slackjawed, and stepped away from the crime scene.  I don't believe any of them have been back.  Instead of inverting the layered creation and cutting into individual slices/wedges, Mr. H. had attempted to gouge out the middle of the unmolded gâteau, as if he were digging into a bowl of mashed potatoes.  I just about lost it.  And to this day, we do not speak of it.

And to think I'm still with the man after such an egregious blunder.

Anyhoos, let's make the gâteau.  It's layers of vegetables - carrots, mushrooms, and broccoli, each layer separated by crêpes, bound with a cheese custard, and baked in a crêpe-lined mold.

Day 1
No need to rush things.
I'm taking my time.
Making the crêpes first on Day 1.

The thing about crêpes is that you'll never get them as thin as commercially-made crêpes, but that's OK.  You made them yourself, they taste wonderful, and they're better.

Here's Julia's recipe, which I've doubled.  I always make a double recipe when I do these because I can't get them as thin as they're supposed to be and I can always use the extras.  Try wrapping up a scrambled egg with melted cheese in a crêpe for breakfast.  Or you could do something via the dessert route. - fruit with a pastry cream and some caramel or chocolate for instance.  Use your imagination for the leftovers.


For the batter:
2 cups Wondra or instant-blending flour
1 1/3 cup milk  (I used 2/3 cup skim and 2/3 cup cream.)
1 1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
6 eggs
6 TB melted unsalted butter
Blend flour, salt, milk, and water with whisk until smooth.
Beat in eggs and butter.
Let rest for 10-15 minutes.  This rest period allows the flour granules to absorb the liquid, resulting in a tender crêpe.  Julia explains that instant-blend flours are good for crêpes because they mix smoothly and almost instantly in cold liquids.  If you used regular AP flour, allow the batter to rest an hour or two.  I've never used regular flour in my crêpes.  I just do what Julia tells me to do.

Making crêpes.

To cook the crêpes:
Heat a skillet over medium to medium-high heat.  Add a small pat of butter and swirl around until it melts. (This is just for the first crêpe.  No additional butter is needed.)  Pour about 3 TB crêpe batter in the center of the pan, tilting the pan in all directions to spread the batter over the surface.  Cook until lightly browned on the bottom, then flip and cook the other side.  Remove to a rack and let cool.  Stack as you go.

The recipe made 26 crêpes.  Enough for the gâteau and then some.

Wrap the crêpes and refrigerate.

Day 2
On Day 2, I prepare my vegetables - the carrots, the mushrooms, and the broccoli.  Now, you can get this out of the way, package the veggies, and wait until tomorrow to assemble, or you can plow ahead and create the gâteau right now.  Once assembled, it must be cooked immediately.

Gather ye vegetables:
1 bunch broccoli
1 pound mushrooms
1 pound carrots
green onions or shallots
fresh dill

The broccoli is going to be trimmed, chopped, cooked until barely tender, drained and cooled down, and chopped again.

The mushrooms will be finely minced and sautéed.  We're making mushroom duxelles.

The carrots are going to be peeled, julienned, and sautéed in butter until tender, and seasoned with salt and fresh dill.

Here are the step-by-steps:

Peel and chop the broccoli.

Drop into boiling, salted water, and cook until just barely tender - about 3-4 minutes.
Drain and drop into ice water to stop the cooking.

When cooled, drain.
 And finely chop.

Next up, the mushroom duxelles.
First, clean the mushrooms.  Wipe off the dirt with a paper towel.
Coarsely chop.

Place in a processor.
And ...  process.
Until nice and fine.

Pour processed shrooms into a towel.

And twist and squeeze as much liquid out as you can.

Keep squeezing.

Next, melt some butter in a hot skillet and toss in the shrooms, separating.
Add in about 4 tablespoons sliced scallions or shallots.
Cook until the mushroom pieces begin to separate, then season with salt and pepper.

On to the carrots now.
Peel the carrots, then cut into julienne strips or matchsticks.
Of course, Mr. H. has a gadget for this.

Melt butter in a skillet over medium high heat, add in the carrots, and sauté until just tender.
Season with s&p.
Add in chopped fresh dill.

Get everything ready for assembly:
Carrots.  Check.
Broccoli.  Check.
Mushrooms.  Check.
Crêpes.  Check
2-3 cup grated Swiss cheese.  Check.

And the custard mixture for the filling:
2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
6 eggs
1 cup milk and or cream
salt and pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
Blend everything in a processor until smooth.

Begin assembly.

Heat oven 350°.
 Butter sides and bottom of a 2-quart, 8-inch diameter, straight-sided baking dish.
Line bottom with buttered wax paper.
Fit 1 crêpe, good side down, in bottom of dish.  
Space 4 more crêpes around the sides, good sides against dish.
Cover with a second layer of 4 more overlapping crêpes.

Spread 1/4 of the grated Swiss cheese in the bottom of the dish, cover with the carrots, pressing into place, and top with 1/3 of remaining cheese.  Ladle in enough custard to come just to the level of the carrots and cheese.

Arrange 1 crêpe on top.  Spread the mushrooms over the crêpe and ladle more custard over the shrooms.  

Arrange 1 more crêpe over the shrooms and spread on 1/2 the remaining cheese, then the broccoli, and the rest of the cheese.  Pour on the last of the custard mixture and fold the first layer of overhanging crêpes up over the filling; cover with a crêpe, fold the outside layer of overhang up over it and cover with one or more crêpes.  Place a round of buttered wax paper over the dish and cover with a sheet of foil.

Bake in a 350° oven.  About 1 3/4 hours.
 In about 1 hour when the gâteau has started to rise, turn the oven up to 400°.  When center reads 160°, remove from oven and let rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes, allowing the custard to set and settle.  Run a thin-bladed knife around inside of dish and unmold onto a serving platter.
Slice into wedges to serve.

Let's assemble:
Crêpe on bottom.  Four overhanging crêpes on sides.
Another crêpe on bottom.

Then four more overhanging crêpes inbetween the other four crêpes.

Swiss cheese on bottom.

Then the carrots.

Press down evenly.

More cheese, then pour in 1/3 of the custard.

Top the carrot layer with a crêpe.

Next is the mushroom duxelle layer.

Pour in 1/2 the custard.

Top the mushroom and custard layer with another crepe.
Then sprinkle on more cheese.

Add in the broccoli.

Top with the remaining cheese.

Pour in the rest of the custard.

Fold the overhanging crêpes.
Top with another crêpe or two.
Cover with buttered wax paper and foil.

And bake.

After baking, let the custard set and settle.
It was at this point, many years ago, that Mr. Hawthorne attempted to stick in a spoon and scoop out the innards.  He was physically restrained.  And we do not speak of this to this day.

Invert the gâteau.

And slice into wedges.

Is this not beautiful?