Funny that one of the most classic Mexico City dishes is a crepe dish. It is such a favorite for Chilango (a.k.a. people who live in Mexico City) weddings that, if my memory doesn’t fail me, one out of every two weddings I’ve been to has served this dish. It is considered special, delicate and celebratory.
Though it might sound strange at first, when you turn back the pages of Mexico’s history, you find that the love affair between Mexican kitchens and French cuisine goes way back.
Here’s how the story – the shortest version ever – goes: Napoleon III had wild world expansion ambitions. He sent Maximilian and Carlota to install a European monarchy in Mexico with the support of the Mexican conservative faction. They even built a grand castle for their residence: The Castillo de Chapultepec.
The experiment lasted from 1864 to 1867 with rather tragic results. “Emperor” Maximilian was captured and executed by the liberals, and his wife Carlota set off on a road that led nowhere but to her losing her mind.
There was, however, no tragedy for Mexico’s culinary legacy. A large part of the entourage that Maximilian and Carlota brought from Europe included chefs, cooks, cheese-mongers, bakers and butchers. Many of them didn’t go back to Europe. Some opened up shop, while others trained locals in their trade.
So it is no surprise that what we know as the French baguette came to be adapted in Mexico as the telera or bolillo, which is Mexico’s daily bread. Crepes have also received signature Mexican tones. When they have a sweet rendition, their most popular take bathes them in a silky cajeta sauce. Crepas con Cajeta adorn dessert sections of menus in a large number of traditional Mexican restaurants.
Now, when crepes are taken on a savory ride, the results are just as extraordinary. The most famous is the one I am sharing here. Crepes filled with ingredients considered to be deeply Mexican and true delicacies: huitlacoche and squash blossoms. That’s just the beginning, the filled crepes are then covered with an exuberant poblano chile sauce made richer by yet another French technique: roux, to thicken the sauce.
When my husband and I got married, we served Red Pozole at the end of the night – it’s either pozole or chilaquiles that are usually served to close the party. But for the main wedding meal, we served these crepes – like they do at 50% of Mexico City weddings, I guess, if my calculations are right. At least in my time…
You know how many people say they didn’t even think about eating during their weddings? That was definitely not my case: I cleaned my plate.
Though I love the dish, I had never made it at home. The idea of them being only for celebrations, for special occasions, and well, my wedding dish, sort of stopped me. But, it was about time I made them. We loved eating them so much at home I had to put the recipe up on my blog in the hopes that you will give it a go.
I have learned, as the years go by, that one should celebrate any day. Every single day is worthy of a celebration.
For the sauce:
- 4 poblano chiles roasted or charred, sweated, stemmed and seeded
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon, all-purpose flour
- 1 cup Mexican cream, Latin-style cream, crème fraîche or heavy cream
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the filling:
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 cup chopped white onion
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped or pressed
- 3 cups fresh huitlacoche, shaved off the cob, thawed from frozen, or 2 7-ounce cans
- 6 cups rinsed, drained and coarsely chopped squash blossoms, or 1 1-pound jar squash blossoms, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup corn kernels, shaved from cob, or thawed from frozen
- 1 batch of homemade crepes
- 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco, or mild feta cheese for garnish
To make the sauce:
- Coarsely chop the prepared poblano chiles. Place them in the blender along with the milk and purée until completely smooth.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Once bubbly, add the flour to make a roux: stir it often until the paste smells toasty, its color turns a pale golden brown, and it appears to be a bit foamy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Pour the chile purée over the roux paste, reduce heat to medium low and stir well, so that it is fully combined and has no lumps. Stir in the Mexican cream, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and nutmeg. Continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally and making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, until it thickens, about 8 to 10 minutes.
To prepare the filling:
- Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add remaining tablespoon of butter along with the oil. Once it is melted and bubbly, add the onion. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes until completely wilted and the edges are barely beginning to brown. Add the garlic, stir and cook for another minute. Stir in the huitlacoche, the squash blossoms and the corn and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Let it all cook, stirring often, until it is completely heated through and the squash blossoms have wilted entirely, about 3 minutes.
To assemble the crepes:
- Heat the crepes one by one over an already hot non-stick skillet set over medium-low heat, about 10 seconds per side. Place on a plate, add 3 tablespoons of filling and roll as if it were a chubby taco. Place seam side down on a platter. Continue with all remaining crepes. Pour the heated poblano sauce all over the top and sprinkle with the queso fresco. Serve while hot.
- NOTE: You can also place the filled crepes in a buttered baking dish, cover with the sauce, and instead of queso fresco use grated melty cheese to cover. Place in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes and serve.