Ratatouille Stuffed Crepes Gratin

Some people are natural-born hosts. I am not one of these people. I stress about who to invite, whether they’re going have things to talk about or even LIKE each other, what to make, what drinks to serve, and, and and…

This Saturday’s potluck dinner was no different: I was late, people couldn’t find parking, my cheesecake didn’t gel properly. And, to make things worse: roommate drama. Major. (FYI: It has since been resolved. :D) Everything came together in the end, though. Awesome food and wine and scintillating conversation with my favoritest people in the city.

The baking and cooking part during the day was good too—actually, it was great. 3 straight hours of uninterrupted slicing, frying, stirring and baking. I finally got to use the frozen lucuma I brought back from Lima for a lucuma cheesecake (will post recipe soon). I also got to make this lovely vegetarian gratin (inspired by this recipe found on In Praise of Sardines)—I’ve been baking so much lately that I forgot how good it feels to be able to cook by feeling and not have to measure anything.

The original recipe is vegan, including the socca crepes which use chickpea flour instead of all purpose. My version isn’t vegan and is also a gratin. Visualize braised-all-day veggies wrapped in light-as-air crepes, smothered in creamy bechamel, and baked until golden on top and a melting pot of flavors in the middle. Love it.

Enjoy.

Ratatouille Stuffed Crepes Gratin (adapted from In Praise of Sardines and Epicurious.com)

Makes one 9×13 gratin dish, ca. 10 servings

INGREDIENTS

Ratatouille Filling:

1 lb any combination of red, yellow and/or orange bell peppers

1 lb zucchini

1 lb eggplant (I used the entire eggplant, ca. 1.2 lbs)

1/2 lb red onions

6 cloves garlic

4-6 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp dried basil (would have used herbes de provence if I had had it)

1 tsp dried rosemary

salt and pepper, to taste

Crepes:

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1 1/2 cups milk (I used non-fat)

1 large egg

2 egg yolks

1 tsp olive oil

Bechamel:

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1/4 cup all purpose flour

2 cups milk (non-fat is fine)

salt and pepper, to taste

pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

Assembly:

handful grated parmesan

1 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

METHOD

Ratatouille

  1. Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil.
  2. Roast the peppers over a barbecue grill, the gas flame on your stove, or under your broiler until black and blistered all over. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a plate to allow to continue cooking in their own steam. When cool, peel off skin (use a paper towel if needed). Seed and cut into one-inch pieces, preferably triangles.
  3. Cut the zucchini and eggplant into one-inch pieces. Place eggplant pieces in a colander over a sink or bowl and sprinkle lavishly with salt. Allow to sit for at least half an hour.
  4. Cut out a cone-shaped piece from the tops of the tomatoes and mark the bottoms with an X. In the boiling water, blanch the tomatoes for 20-30 seconds. Allow to cool briefly, then peel off and discard the skin. Cut tomatoes into one-inch pieces.
  5. Dice the onions into 1/2-inch pieces and slice the garlic as thinly as possible. In a large, shallow pan over medium-low heat, sweat the onions in 2-3 tablespoons of the oil, covered, for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. After a few minutes, season the onions with salt. If the onions start to color, reduce the heat to low. Add garlic, cover, and cook 15 more minutes until meltingly tender. Remove the lid and add the herbs, the tomatoes and the cut peppers. Turn the heat up to medium and cook for about 10 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, in another pan (preferably non-stick) large enough to hold all the zucchini in one layer, sauté the zucchini in 1-2 tablespoon oil over high heat. Your goal is to caramelize the zucchini all over, without letting it burn or cook all the way through. It should take about 5 minutes. Remove from pan, season with salt, and set aside when done.
  7. When the tomatoes and peppers have cooked for about 10 minutes, add the zucchini. Cook for about 5 minutes until almost tender then add the eggplant and cook 5 more minutes until all the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.Using several paper towels, gently squeeze the eggplant dry. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and sauté the eggplant as you did the zucchini, for about 5 minutes until caramelized.
  8. When the tomatoes and peppers have cooked for about 10 minutes, add the zucchini. Cook for about 5 minutes until almost tender then add the eggplant and cook 5 more minutes until all the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Turn off the heat, cover and let sit for a few hours, in order for the flavors to “marry”.

Crepes

  1. Sift together flour, salt, nutmeg, and pepper to taste into a bowl. Whisk together milk, whole egg, and yolk in a small bowl, then gradually whisk into flour mixture.
  2. Heat a dry 7- to 8-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot. Spoon about 2 tablespoons batter into skillet, tilting to coat bottom. (If batter sets before skillet is coated, reduce heat slightly for next crepe.) Cook until underside is lightly browned, 6 to 10 seconds, then loosen crepe with a spatula and flip. Cook until just cooked through, about 20 seconds, and transfer to a plate. Make 10-12 more crepes in the same manner.

Bechamel Sauce

  1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the butter and let it melt. Whisk in the flour, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Allow the mixture to cook for about 1 minute.
  2. Whisk in 1/2 cup of the milk, again stirring constantly to fully incorporate ingredients and also to avoid scalding.
  3. Once the mixture is smooth and already starting to thicken, add in the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk as well as the salt, pepper and grated nutmeg. Reduce the heat to low and whisk until thick. Remove from heat. (The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.)

Assembly

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 F (oven rack in the center). In a 9×13-inch gratin dish, ladle in half of the bechamel sauce, making sure to coat the bottom completely.
  2. Spread 1/4 cup ratatouille filling across the center of 1 crepe and roll into a cylinder. Fold in the ends and transfer, seam side down, to the baking dish. Assemble the remaining crepes in the same manner, fitting them snugly. (You’ll probably have leftover crepes and filling.)
  3. Pour the remaining bechamel on top of the crepes, spreading evenly. Sprinkle grated parmesan over. Distribute the butter pieces evenly on top. Cover with a foil tent.
  4. Bake for 1 hour. Remove the foil. Broil on high for 5-10 minutes, or until golden on top.
  5. Remove from the oven and let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.
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