As some of you may have noticed, most of my recipes are gluten free. There’s a reason. I don’t eat gluten. I have a thyroid condition, which gluten apparently exacerbates. Last year my doctor ordered gluten out of my diet. At first it was a shock. “What? How? I’m a CHEF! I can’t cut FLOUR from my diet!!” But as soon as I started to feel the differences it made in my health, I knew the payoff was well worth the cost. I don’t know if it will be forever, and I don’t think of myself as a “gluten-free” chef (I still develop gluten-filled recipes for clients), but just as somebody who tries to create delicious recipes, whether or not they contain wheat protein or not.
This recipe is the perfect example. Yes, it happens to be gluten-free, but it’s definitely worth trying, whatever your wheat tolerance. Buckwheat is a seed (not related to wheat), and (lucky for me) it doesn’t have any gluten. In France, buckwheat flour, which has a toasted, nutty flavor, has been transformed into crêpes for generations. This version is incredibly simple, and creates a batter that’s a cinch to work with (you don’t have to worry about throwing out your first batch!). It might take a crêpe or two to get the hang of swirling the batter into the hot pan (it’s all in the wrist!), but trust me, egg-shaped crêpes taste just as good as a perfectly round ones.
In this recipe, the crêpes get stuffed with a classic combination of melted cheese and ham, brightened with thinly sliced apples and grainy mustard, and topped with lightly dressed greens. They’re elegant and delicious, equally suitable for Ella’s lunchbox (sans greens) or dinner with friends. I can’t wait to experiment with other fillings: spinach and mushrooms with goat cheese; lox with dill-scented crème fraiche; chocolate, pears and hazelnuts; apple compote with honey and fresh ricotta…
Believe it or not, omitting gluten from my diet has been easier than I thought. While there certainly are challenges (I’ll never enjoy being that girl at the restaurant who can’t eat gluten), from a chef’s standpoint, it’s actually been really interesting. My eyes (and palate) have opened up a world of ingredients that I hadn’t experimented with before, such as millet, teff, amaranth, nut flours, and, of course, buckwheat. Delicious!
- 1 cup milk
- 3 large eggs
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon honey or sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter , melted and cooled slightly, plus more for cooking
- 1 cup (4 ounces) buckwheat flour
- Whole grain or Dijon mustard
- Shredded cheese (gruyere, Comté, cheddar… whatever you like)
- Good quality sliced ham
- Very thin apple slices (I prefer a crisp-sweet variety, such as Honeycrisp or Fuji)
- Topping: mixed greens lightly dressed with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil
- Combine the milk, eggs, salt, honey and 1 tablespoon butter. Whisk until smooth. Add the buckwheat flour and whisk until well combined. Do Ahead: The batter can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day. Whisk well before proceeding.
- Place a small teaspoon or so of butter or oil in a 12-inch nonstick pan over medium heat. Once hot, use a paper towel to rub the butter all over the bottom of the pan to lightly coat. Add a scant 1/3 cup of the batter (I use a measuring cup for this) and swirl the pan, lifting and tilting it in a circle, to evenly coat the bottom. Let cook until golden brown in spots on the bottom and edges, about 1-3 minutes (your first crêpe might take a little longer if your pan isn’t hot enough—let her cook until she’s ready, those golden spots equal flavor). Using a spatula, loosen the edges of the crêpe, then use your fingers to flip it over. Cook until golden in spots on the other side, about 30-60 seconds longer. Slide the crêpe onto a plate. Repeat with the rest of the batter, whisking the batter and rubbing the pan with a bit more butter/oil between batches. Stack the crêpes as they’re cooked. Do Ahead: The crêpes can be made up to 1 day in advance. Let cool then store in a large ziptop bag in the refrigerator.
- Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Line the crêpes on a work surface. Spread a thin layer of whole grain or Dijon mustard on half of each crêpe. Top with shredded cheese, a slice or two of ham, and a few thin slices of apple. Fold the crêpes in half and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Transfer to plates and garnish with the greens.