Wednesday, December 13, 2017

something to keep you warm

Crespelle in Brodo
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I love a good simple meal. The kind that tastes better than it looks and costs less than it’s worth. Resourceful, delicious, slow cooked food that requires the least of efforts and renders the most in flavor. A heartwarming melt-in-your-mouth stew, a deep rich bone broth. You get what I mean!

It’s Sunday, wet and cold. The wind is blowing furiously and all I want is a warm soup.  In minutes, a large pot of water is boiling on the stove. A carrot, a big onion, a couple of celery ribs, some cartilage-rich jointly bones and chicken feet will do the magic. I’d add a bay leaf too, if only I had some. There’s something so pleasing about this, I’m not sure exactly what, perhaps it’s just the fact in not having to do much, if not only to poke my nose under the lid every now and then to catch a whiff of what will be.

All of this cannot be complete without the accompaniment of my nonna’s crespelle. The paper thin savory crepes filled with copious amounts of pecorino and parmigiano cheese.  Each rolled tight and lined one next to the other in a bowl that welcomes both the crespelle and the broth.  It’s unsure if the broth should be more than the crespelle or the crespelle more than the broth.  For sure, one complements the other and God bless whoever put them together! 
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First off, the broth. At the beginning, just before things begin to boil, you’ll notice that a foam gathers quickly on the surface. The usual big metal spoon will do, in scooping it out, but the use of a paper towel will help you achieve a clear broth. Place the paper towel flat on the surface so that it can soak in the remaining foam and any extra grease. Keep using the paper towel until finally you get rid of it all. At the end, you’ll be happy to have a crystal clear broth.

Second, the crespelle.  Before pouring a ladle of batter over a hot pan, grease it generously with guanciale (pork-jowl) fat or pancetta fat. Stick a fork in a big cube of fat, at least 3 x 3 cm, and use the fork as a handle to rub the fat in the pan each time you add the batter. Originally, the crespelle were made only with flour and water, so you can understand why our nonna’s wanted to enhance their flavor with some fat.  Only years later, eggs were added but the pan greased with guanciale remained.

This dose is for approximately 16 crespelle (4 people).  If you need to increase the amount add extra flour and water but keep the amount of eggs to 3. The consistency is what you need to get exact. You may need to try a few before you get it right.  Essentially, make them as thin as you can.  So, to do that, keep in mind, that the thinner the batter the better the crespelle. If the batter is thick, you’ll get a thick crespella and you don’t want pancakes.

Crespelle

2 heaping cups of all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 ½ cups of water
¼ teaspoon of salt
3 x 3 cm of guanciale fat
a mix of grated parmigiana and pecorino cheese ( a spoonful for each crespella)

Combine the flour, eggs and salt in a big bowl and whisk until mixture is smooth with no lumps. Gradually add the water and continue to whisk.  Leave the batter to rest for 1 hour.

Heat a non-stick skillet or a cast iron pan. Generously grease the surface of the pan with a piece of guanciale fat (stuck on a fork).  Add a ladle of batter on the pan and swirl to completely cover the surface.  Cook the underside of the crespella till golden brown or until the top is filled with bubbles and almost dry, 1 or 2 minutes.  Loosen the edges with a spatula and flip to cook on the other side, 1 minute.

You want to try to get a very thin crespella, so you may need to make a couple before you find the right consistency of the batter by thinning it with more liquid or, if too thin, you may need to add more flour.

Pile all the crespelle on a plate and once you’re done, sprinkle a heaping spoon of cheese on each.  Roll the crespelle very tight so that they don’t open when you add the broth.

Place 4 crespelle in each bowl, line one next to each other.  Add the warm broth in each bowl.  Dust with cheese. Serve.   

*Use your favorite broth.  Whether it’s chicken, bone, beef or vegetable broth, these crespelle will suit them all.  

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