A Lot from a Little Series 1, Post 4: Smoked Chicken & Cremini Crepes with Two-Cheese Bechamel

I’m starting a new semi-regular feature here at Table for Two, in which I will try to offer some tips and tricks on eating well without breaking the bank, especially when cooking for a small number of people.

A Lot From A Little Series 1, Post 1: How to Smoke a Chicken
A Lot From A Little Series 1, Post 2: Grilled BBQ Smoked Chicken Pizza
A Lot From A Little Series 1, Post 3: Smoked Chicken Salad Over Greens

My final offering to you in this smoked chicken series is something you might not consider when trying to decide how to use up what’s left of your beautiful mahogany-skinned bird. I’ve mentioned many more-commonplace ideas if you’re looking for something comforting and simple, but if you’d like to be a bit more adventurous, well, you ought to give this a try.

Crepes are one of those things that are so damnably versatile, I sometimes wonder why we don’t use them more often. They can be savory or sweet, flavored with all manner of additives in the form of herbs and spices, and can be filled and topped with almost anything you can imagine. Sure, they can be a little fussy to make, but I gotta tell ya: my first ever attempt at making crepes was a pretty solid success (though admittedly imperfect) and I can’t imagine why I was ever afraid of them.

I’ll take my cue, once again, from the great Alton Brown (can you tell he’s my hero?) and say that the key is really to have the right pan.

I suppose I’m lucky in that we just happen to have the perfect pan for making crepes in our cupboard. Its shallow and nonstick, with a gradual curve at the sides that allows for easy turning and removal of the crepes and ensures even cooking and shape. I don’t actually know where this particular pan came from – I suspect its a hand-me-down either from J’s parents, or from his ex’s. Either way, I’m grateful to have it, because that’s one less kitchen implement I need to buy.

Seriously though, I definitely think that the pan is essential to turning out great crepes. A deeper pan with higher sides and a steeper wall would make it awfully difficult to get a spatula under the thin, delicate crepes without tearing or folding them, and lord help you if its not nonstick. You’ll need a lot of butter to make that work. And its certainly not a unitasker (which AB would frown upon) – it can easily be used for omelets or pancakes, and has frequently stepped in as a perfect sautee pan for small amounts of food, which is especially useful on the rare occasion that I’m cooking for myself alone.

Aside from that, I’d recommend trying out AB’s crepe recipe first, if you’re a crepe n00b. Its simple and straightforward and practically idiot-proof – the only thing that can be tricky is learning the correct amount of batter to use for each crepe, but you’ll get the hang of that with practice.

For this particular recipe I used some savory crepes flavored with thyme that I’d made awhile back and frozen for just such an occasion. I reheated them (2 for each of us) in a low-temp oven while preparing the filling and sauce, and they worked just fine – a bit too crisp around the edges, perhaps, but it didn’t really hurt anything, so I’d say there’s no reason why you shouldn’t make your crepes ahead of time. If you’ve got the idle hours, though, by all means, make them fresh. They’ll always be better immediately after cooking.

The filling was incredibly simple – I took a handful of cremini mushrooms and half a white onion and sliced them all thinly, then sauteed them until they were soft and golden. Then I added in the remainder of our shredded smoked chicken with some fresh thyme leaves, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a fair amount of fresh-cracked black pepper. When everything was hot and slightly browned and crisp in places, I removed the mix from the heat to let it cool slightly.

The sauce was a simple basic bechamel with some shredded cheddar and smoked gouda thrown in, along with a goodly amount of black pepper. I made it while the filling was cooking, because I happen to enjoy multi-tasking.

To assemble, I just rolled up a few tablespoons of the chicken and mushroom filling in each crepe, then spooned the bechamel over top. That’s it. Done. Simple, right?

It sure didn’t taste it, though. And it looked darn fancy to boot. You’d never believe you could have such a seemingly gourmet meal on a weeknight, but believe me, you can. This didn’t take more than half an hour from start to finish.

This is one of those recipes that is definitely more than the sum of its parts. The filling was smokey (obviously), earthy, bright from the lemon and slightly sweet thanks to the slight caramelization on the onions. The crepes themselves were woodsy and savory, and the cheesy bechamel was rich, tangy, and highly flavorful without being overly heavy, thanks to the 2% milk I used in place of whole milk or cream. It was perhaps a touch to thick, but I’m still perfecting my bechamel-fu.

Served with a simple green salad, this was a decadent and satisfying meal that made us feel oh-so-special on a Thursday evening, and was the perfect last meal for our wonderful smoked chicken. I’m not sure it’d be quite as good with regular old roast chicken, but it was good enough that, well, I’m willing to try.

This concludes my first “A Lot from A Little” series! There’ll be more where that came from in the future, so stay tuned!

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