Crepe au Ble Noir
I read about buckwheat crepes, or galettes au sarrasin, before we went to France. I knew to search them out because they were so lovingly described by David Lebovitz in his book, My Paris Kitchen. First he explained the confusion of names: A crepe is made with white flour, but when made with buckwheat flour it is called galette au sarrasin in French (unless, of course, it is called a crepe au ble noir, or crepe of black flour). While a white-flour crepe may be served with either sweet or savory fillings, a galette au sarrasin is generally reserved for savory fare.
Although there are many corner creperies in Paris enticing diners with the smell of crepes frying in butter on a hot griddle, it was on a chilly morning at the Bastille out-door market that I was totally smitten by crepe, or more accurately, galette lust. Two young men of North African descent stood behind a long counter expertly flipping and folding crepes fried to order on giant griddles. They each had two griddles and a vat of crepe batter–one of white flour and one of the coveted ble noir– that they ladled onto the griddle, swirled to a perfect circle with a flat wooden rake, flipped onto a second griddle, and filled with various savory fillings (caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, grated cheese, ham, chorizo, sausage, and chopped tomato) chosen by the customer. The folded galette fried to fragrant perfection in a generous brushing of butter. Each sizzling galette was doused with black pepper and chopped chives before being wrapped in paper and delivered to an outstretched hand.
Crepes and galettes are perfect street food, and they’re also perfect party food and lend themselves to ensemble cooking. Two people can work the griddles, and guests can decide which filling combinations to wrap up. The finished galette is sliced into rounds like sushi and passed around the room to sample with drinks.
Galette au Sarrasin
Lebovitz has this advice on making crepes, or galettes: “A good crepe, or galette, should be thin and lacy. The batter is best made a few hours before you plan to use it and should have the consistency of heavy cream. As it hits the griddle, it should be thick enough to coat the bottom, but not too thick, or the galette will be rubbery. The griddle must be hot enough so that almost immediately lots of little holes will form on the surface of the galette. That’s the moment of satisfaction, when you know that you’ve got it just right, and then it’s a pleasure to just keep going.” He goes on to say that the first one or two are usually duds, until the griddle reaches just the right heat…so don’t despair. Official galette batter is made with buckwheat flour, salt, and water. Lebovitz adds eggs to make the batter more manageable for novices.
Batter ingredients for 12 galettes: 1 1/2 cups buckwheat flour, 1/2 tsp sea salt or kosher salt, 2 1/4 cups water (more if needed). Lebovitz adds 2 eggs; I sometimes add 1/2 cup sourdough starter
Put the buckwheat flour, water and salt in a bowl. Whisk well to combine, cover, and refrigerate a few hours to overnight. When ready to cook, whisk the batter and add more water if needed so that the consistency is of heavy cream–no thicker.
Heat two10-inch or larger crepe pans or skillets (I use two cast-iron griddles), if you have two cooks, over medium-high heat. Coat the pans with a small amount of melted butter or oil, using a wad of paper towel to apply it.
Pour about 1/4-cup batter onto the hot pan, rotating the pan to distribute the batter evenly. Wait for the bubbles to appear and the underside to turn golden brown–about one minute. Flip the galette and cook about 30 seconds longer. Transfer the galette to a plate (or turn it over to a second cook for filling), and continue to cook the rest of the batter to same way. Wipe more butter or oil onto the pan as needed.
After the initial cooking, a galette is folded or rolled around fillings and fried again in butter. The Paris galettes were filled rather like an envelope: filling ingredients distributed over the middle section and the two sides folded in to cover the filling. Galettes may also be rolled up around the filling, as for sushi, and flattened slightly before frying.
Add some butter to a hot skillet or griddle (medium heat) and place as many galettes as will fit in a single, uncrowded layer. Cook until the first side is crisp, then flip and cook the second side. It takes a few minutes for each side, and as Lebovitz says, it’s worth the wait. Transfer the hot galettes to a cutting board, slice into one or two-inch pieces, and serve with chopped herbs, pomegranate molasses, and harissa.
Fresh pork or chicken sausage and roasted red peppers
Roasted winter squash with pomegranate seeds and Gorgonzola
Sautéed kale with ham and feta cheese
Caramelized onions with oven-dried tomatoes and black olives