LAST SATURDAY, I took 8 crepes out of the freezer, and then proceeded to invent a highly-fragrant filling for them. The filling was made from common supermarket items — including canned tuna, frozen spinach, and dried tarragon. These I bound together in a sumptuous, velvety French sauce called “Sauce Mornay.” The result of this mad-experiment? Well, one bite and I thought I was eating perfume. Two bites and I nearly passed out from pleasure. Three bites, and I realized I’d have to share the recipe with you.
Tuna-Tarragon Crepes with Sauce Mornay
Ingredients for 4 servings (2 crepes per person)
8 Basic Crepes (I use this recipe)
3 cans (6-oz each) solid white Albacore tuna, packed in water
1 box (10-oz) frozen chopped spinach
1 large white onion, diced
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/3 cup dry vermouth
Good-quality olive oil
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
3 Tbs unsalted butter
3 Tbs flour
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
Special equipment — a heavy-bottomed, 12-inch-diameter skillet; a heavy-bottomed saucepan which will hold at least 4 cups; a buttered 9×13 casserole
1. The onion and tarragon –In a skillet set over a low flame, heat one Tbsp butter and a glug of olive oil until the butter has melted but not colored. Add the minced onions and tsp of dried tarragon. Stir briefly, and then cover the skillet tightly, and let the onions sweat for 5 minutes, or until they have softened.
2. The spinach – While the onions cook, place the unopened box of frozen spinach in a bowl, then set the bowl in the microwave. Thaw on “High” for exactly 3 minutes. Cut the box open, letting its contents fall into the bowl. The spinach won’t be completed thawed, so break up any frozen bits with your hands. Pour off liquid from the bowl. Then, a fistful at a time, squeeze the spinach to rid it of excess moisture, as pictured above.
3. The tuna and vermouth – open and drain well the 3 cans of tuna. Add the tuna to the onion mixture, breaking the tuna up with a wooden spatula or a dinner fork. You should end up with small bits of tuna, blended evenly among with the onions, spinach, and tarragon. Turn up the heat, add the vermouth, and let the vermouth boil for about a minute to evaporate its alcohol taste.
My, this dish smells good already, doesn’t it?
Remove skillet from heat, add a pinch of salt and 3-5 grinds of black pepper, and then taste carefully. You might like to add more salt, or perhaps a bit more tarragon.
4. The Sauce Mornay – In the saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, but do not let it brown. Add the flour, and cook, stirring with a wire whisk all the while, for about 2 minutes. Cooking the flour removes the “flour-y” taste. Whisking continuously, pour in about half the milk. When this has thickened — which should be immediately — gradually whisk in another 1/2 cup or so of the milk. You want the sauce to be thick enough to enrobe and bind the tuna filling. Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 cup of Swiss cheese.
Preheat oven to 375; place one oven rack at the lower-middle position, and another rack just beneath the broiling element.
5. Filling the crepes — Pour the tuna mixture into a medium bowl, and toss it with about a 1/2 cup of the Sauce Mornay. You want just enough sauce to enrobe the filling; too much and the filling will spill out of the crepes as they bake. Spoon about 2 Tbsp filling onto the bottom third of a crepe, and then roll the crepe into a cylinder.
6. Baking – 20 minutes at 375; followed by a few minutes beneath the broiler – Place the crepes in the preheated oven, and bake until the sauce becomes bubbly — about 20 minutes. Then turn the broiler on, transfer the crepes to the rack just beneath the broiler, and let them bask until the Sauce Mornay turns spotty-brown, as pictured up top, 2-3 minutes.
Serving – You can serve these crepes for lunch, along with a tossed green salad and a glass of Sauvignon blanc. They make a mighty-fine first course for dinner, too, especially if you are having chicken for the main course.
If you want to make these crepes a day in advance, you certainly can. Just complete all the steps except the final, baking one. Then bake for about 25-30 minutes, followed by the broiler-browning.
Folks, Tuna-Tarragon Crepes are heaven on earth. Promise me you’ll try them some day, okay? Otherwise I’ll send Jacques, my hunky assistant, to your house, so he can make them for you. I made that last part up. Jacques is only my imaginary assistant.
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