TdF Stage 4: Cobbles, Crêpes, and Kittel

via @HappynGlorious

via @HappynGlorious

No one let the fact it was a work day or even a bit of rain spoil the last day of the Tour de France in England yesterday. The cyclists were greeted by crowds in Cambridge and all along the route to the big finish in London. The inevitable happened when Sky’s David López couldn’t completely avoid a spectator who had jumped into the path of the peloton to take a selfie, but all of the cyclists brought down in the resulting crash, including Andy Schleck and Ted King, were able to finish the race. We wish spectators could enjoy the event without endangering themselves and the riders.

Edited to add: After this was posted, we learned that Andy Schleck has had to leave the Tour de France because of that crash yesterday. We don’t see how the photograph could have been worth it, and I’m sure Andy Schleck doesn’t think so either.

Stage 4 takes the Tour back to its home in France. The cyclists travel from Le Touquet-Paris-Plage to the city of Lille. It’s a flat finish, so local hopes will be pinned on new French favourite Bryan Coquard, but André Greipel, Peter Sagan, or yesterday’s winner, Marcel Kittel, could spoil the fête. After winning two of the three completed stages, Kittel is looking like the man to beat in the sprint stages.

stage4

The Tour is passing through an area close to the Belgian border known more for beer than wine, so it might be a day to pour yourself a Belgian-style beer. Or you could enjoy ficelle picarde, a regional specialty served in restaurants and homes all over northern France. It’s essentially a savoury crêpe filled with mushrooms and ham and grilled with béchamel and cheese on top, so not too complicated and not one of the famous stews of northern France that would heat up the kitchen unmercifully during the summer. It’s also very wine-friendly.

Ficelle Picarde

Ficelle Picarde

You can use your favourite recipe for crêpes and béchamel, or use the ones below. You can use any cheese you like, but Emmenthal or Gruyère are probably the most traditional choices. If you’d like to see other versions of the recipe or other photos of the dish, try one of these:

http://www.phamfatale.com/id_2421/title_Ficelle-Picarde-Recipe-Crepe-Gratin/
http://www.frenchmoments.eu/ficelle-picarde/
http://www.manusmenu.com/ficelle-picarde
http://cuisine.journaldesfemmes.com/recette/305816-ficelle-picarde (French)
http://www.marmiton.org/recettes/recette_ficelle-picarde_13187.aspx (French)

 

Ficelle Picarde

Crêpes filled with mushrooms and ham, topped with béchamel and grated cheese, and then grilled. Makes about 7 crêpes.

For the Crêpes:
100g plain flour
2 eggs
300ml milk
oil for brushing the frying pan

For the Béchamel:
50g butter
50g plain flour
500ml milk, room temperature
salt to taste and a dash of nutmeg (optional)

For the Mushroom-Ham Filling:
splash of oil
1 shallot, minced (or 1/2 small onion)
150g mushrooms, sliced
up to 150g ham, in thin slices or chopped
50ml white wine
salt to taste
180g Emmenthal or Gruyère

1. Begin the crêpes: Mix the flour, eggs and milk for the crêpes in a blender, food processor, or by hand in a bowl. Set aside.

2. Make the béchamel: melt the butter in a large saucepan and then add the flour. Whisk together and keep whisking as the mixture begins to cook and brown. Begin adding milk slowly, stirring to combine. Once all the milk has been added, continue cooking until the mixture thickens. Season with salt and nutmeg (optional), and set aside to cool.

3. Finish the crêpes: brush a frying pan with oil and allow it to heat up over a fairly high heat. Use a ladle or measuring cup to pour a small amount of the crêpe batter into the frying pan, turning the pan quickly to distribute the batter evenly right to the edges. This never quite works for the first crêpe, but will for the rest. Allow the crepe to cook until the top begins to look dry, then peek under an edge to see if the bottom has browned enough. If it has, flip the crêpe over and cook the other side. Repeat with the remaining batter. Stack the crepes on a plate with squares of greaseproof paper between them to keep them separate.

6. Preheat the grill.

5. Allow the frying pan to cool down slightly, and then add a splash of oil and the minced shallot (or onion). Sauté briefly, then add the sliced mushrooms. Stir to combine, then add the 50ml white wine. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine has evaporated. Turn off the heat and add a small pinch of salt.

5. Add a few spoons of the béchamel to the mushroom mixture. If you are using slices of ham, place one slice in the centre of each crêpe, or, if your ham is chopped, add it to the mushroom-béchamel filling. Add the mushroom mixture to each crepe and roll up. Place the crêpes in a lightly greased dish (or individual dishes) and cover with the remaining béchamel. Top with the grated Emmenthal and place under the heated grill to brown.

And a final reminder: Do not panic when the first crêpe goes wrong. It always does. Eat it quickly and no one will be the wiser.

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