From time to time, I might post a recipe on here of something that I have made successfully. Successful is defined by: 1) not burning the dish, 2) not burning myself, and 3) Courtney makes “ooh yummy” noises when she eats it. The burning myself part, well, you should see the burn I have on my right thumb from a spitting roux just after Thanksgiving. It was a deep, mean burn that has scarred terrifically and left a neat little indention in my flesh. Tasty!
So, the recipe I bring you today is my favorite cannelloni. I despise pasta shells/tubes because they’re a pain in the ass to fill, always seem to split, and are too thick to enjoy the flavor of the filling. So I made crepes instead, which are amazing, taste like super-thin pasta, and I always seem to have the ingredients around. To be fair, this was my first time making crepes, and I threw out a lot of them because I tore them during the attempted flip. But I’m sure I’ll feel more confident next time.
Meat and Spinach Cannelloni
Ingredients for crepes:
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
dash of salt
Ingredients for filling and the rest of it:
1 pound ground beef, ground turkey, or whatever meat you feel like eating that day
10 ounces frozen spinach
ricotta cheese, I forget how much, but it was the medium-sized container at HEB
2 cloves garlic, minced
tomato sauce (get a good, basic kind–I used a chunky tomato with basil)
First, mix the crepe batter:
Beat the egg in a bowl, add the milk, flour, and salt. Whisk together thoroughly. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to let the batter get nice and cold. You might want to play with the milk amount a little. I ended up adding more because my batter seemed a little thick and it didn’t want to swirl in the bottom of the pan. It should be pretty thin, much thinner than pancake batter.
To make the filling:
While the batter is chilling, saute the garlic briefly, and then add the meat. Microwave the spinach to thaw it, then drain it and squeeze all the water out. I find this easier by smushing various chunks of it between some paper towels. Drain the meat and garlic, throw in a bowl with the spinach. Add the entire container of ricotta, salt, pepper, and any other seasoning you might like. I added some oregano and all-purpose seasoning, but you just go nuts. Taste the filling along the way to see how you like it. Mix thoroughly and put it into the fridge while you make crepes or watch something good on tv.
To make the crepes:
Slap a pan onto the stove and turn the burner on low. Either run some butter around the pan or spray with cooking spray. If you’re going to use butter, I recommend cutting off a tablespoon and keeping it the wrapper. That way you can keep picking it up without getting all greasy-fingered and annoying.
Lightly grease the pan and pour in some batter. I was using a small pan and poured in a little less than a 1/4 cup of batter per crepe. Let the crepe cook gently for about 30-40 seconds, until it no longer looks wet on top. To flip, lift one edge up with a spatula, grab it with your fingers (it’s not that hot, I swear!) and playfully flip it over in the pan. Let the other side cook for about 20 seconds and then remove it to a plate. I separated the crepes on the plate with wax paper so they wouldn’t stick together. I should mention that I find this much easier using a rubber spatula than a . . . flipping spatula? They’re both called spatulas, right? Anyway, the rubber spatula is, you know, flexible, and it lifts the edge of the crepe much more easily and helps you avoid tearing the thing.
Observe my blurry spatula action:
Go sit at your table or stand somewhere comfy and roomy. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spread some of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a large baking dish. Place a large spoonful of filling in the center of a crepe, roll lengthwise, and place into the pan seam down in a single layer with a bit of room between them. Continue until you have used all the crepes you were able to make. I only got 7 good crepes out of my batter because I kept throwing away the ones I tore and got angry at. But 7 crepes filled my baking dish, so yay me! Glop some more tomato sauce over the crepes (as much or as little as you want, this is your baby) sprinkle some mozzerella over the whole thing, and bake for 15-20 minutes.
This is what it looks like assembled:
Smell the savory goodness as it bakes. I made a quick salad and some crusty garlic bread. I actually had half of my filling left over, since my crepes didn’t all turn out, so I put it into a Ziplock, smushed it down some, and froze it. I plan on thawing it next week and making more crepes. I should have taken a picture of this culinary miracle, but didn’t think of it at the time. Next time, I will, I promise!
With the salad and the happy bread: