When Brian and I were married in 2001 we had so much going on in our lives that we did not have time for a honeymoon. We dreamed of going someplace exotic and fun, we ended up going for a long weekend to Las Vegas. I know, very exotic! It was fun, but not what we really would have wanted. Almost two years later I was finishing culinary school and some of my classmates were going on a culinary tour through Tuscany and attending demos at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. I was planning on going with them but I felt so bad leaving Brian behind. Then I found out that this trip was not just for culinary students. When I told Brian, he was more than pleased; and booked his ticket instantly. I was excited to share much of what I had learned throughout the year with him on this trip, not to mention it was like the honeymoon we never really got to.
The whole trip was fun, educational, and breathtaking. We ate parmesan cheese strait from the producers. Brian tasted prosciutto that was aged 30 years that made him weak in the knees. I indulged in champagne and grapefruit gelato that was sinfully good. We drank lots of wine, sipped on grappa, consumed lots of coffee, gazed at art, and admired many old buildings. We were having so much fun. Every night we would eat with our tour group a family style like dinner. Some were better than others, and made lots of memories for all of us that we still laugh at.
On one particular night we ate our dinner in the dining room of an inn we were staying at in Sienna. The meal started out with a crepe that was filled with spinach and served with a creamy, somewhat cheesy sauce. It was ultimately delicious. We all tried to pick apart the sauce, and best we could come up with is it was a béchamel sauce of some kind. After dinner we asked our translator and tour guide to go to the kitchen with us and ask the chef exactly what was in the sauce. When we got to the kitchen we found three older German ladies that did not speak a word of Italian or English. Our tour guide tried so hard to communicate with them but they had no idea what we were asking about. They just kind of shrugged. Over some wine that night we talked about what we saw in the kitchen and what could really have been in that sauce. Our assumption was goat cheese, but we were just not sure.
In the years since I made many attempts to get that sauce down right. The crepes and the spinach part of the dish were easy. I have made it with other greens as well; and find that the texture of Swiss or Rainbow Chard is better than spinach. It adds a bit more flavor and has more body to it, where the spinach nearly melts away when sautéed. But the sauce; the sauce was many trials. I found that a combination a fresh goat cheese and grated parmesan added to a béchamel works best. Once I did get the sauce to where I liked it, I have been making this dish time and time again. It always makes me think of our fun in Tuscany. I try to think back to that Inn on the country side of Sienna, and I hope that Brian and I will be able to get back there someday, until then I will keep making this dish in hopes that we will get there someday for maybe a third honeymoon?
Crepes filled with Sautéed Greens and a Goat Cheese Béchamel (Serves 6)
Goat Cheese Bechamel Sauce
4 tbsp of butter
4 tbsp of flour
3 cups of milk
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
Fresh black pepper, to taste
4 oz of fresh goat cheese, crumbled
½ cup of grated parmesan
First, place a sauce pan over medium heat and melt your butter. When butter is melted add in your flour and stir it all together until it forms a paste. Once is paste like, slowly pour in your milk; whisking it constantly. Once all your milk, flour, and butter mixture is all whisked together bring it to a simmer stirring it constantly.
Next, add in youth nutmeg and black pepper to taste. Once your milk mixture begins to simmer, you will see that it slightly thickens. At this point add in your goat cheese and parmesan whisk until your cheese is melted.
Finally, taste your sauce to adjust your seasoning. Set aside, and when ready to serve place your pot over low heat. Stirring it until warmed through and just to a simmer again. (Sauce can be made a couple of days ahead and stored in your refrigerator. Heat the sauce through when ready to serve.)
1 bunch of Swiss or Rainbow Chard or 2 bunches of Spinach; washed, trimmed, and chopped small
2 cloves of garlic, chopped small
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea Salt to taste
2 tbsp of water, if needed
First, place a sauté pan over medium to high heat. Once warmed through add in the olive oil and the garlic.
Next, stir the garlic and place your greens in the pan over it all constantly stirring. If you feel your saute pan is getting too dry and your greens begin to stick add in a bit of water to help wilt and soften your greens. But keep stirring until your greens are wilted and liquid is almost all evaporated.
Finally, season your greens with sea salt and place aside until ready to fill your crepes.
Crepes (makes about 16 – 18)
2 oz of butter, melted (plus more for cooking)
¼ tsp of sea salt
1 cup of milk
½ cup of warm water
1 cup of flour
First; whisk together your egg, butter, sea salt, and milk. Place it all in a blender or food processor. Over the top place your water and flour. Blend it all together until it is a smooth mixture and there are not flour lumps. Place in the refrigerator at least an hour before cooking.
Next, place a small nonstick frying pan over low heat and when warm melt a small amount of butter in it. Pour about 2 – 3 tbsp of your batter into the pan (depending on your pans size) and tilt pan to be sure batter spreads evenly across the bottom of it. When edges to the center of your crepe seem set and edges start to turn golden slide a spatula easily underneath it and flip it over. Leave it for a minute and then remove from pan. Repeat with remanding batter, adding more butter to the pan when needed.
Finally, place crepes on a plate until ready to fill. When your filling is ready, place a small amount in the center of the crepe and fold. You can fold then in half and in half again; or wrap it into 1/3’s, it is up to you.
Note: it is not uncommon to have the first 1 – 2 crepes not come out right. I usually sacrifice at least one before they come out smoothly.
Plating: place a bit of your Goat Cheese Béchamel on your plate. Over the sauce place your stuffed crepe then add a bit more sauce over it all. You can garnish with black pepper and basil or oregano if you like.