Before the Salt Cellar opened, I was looking through books for ideas on “old school” French food I could put a spin on for the menu. Crepinettes were one thing I thought of, but decided to put them on the back-burner to keep the saute stations a little easier to work, for the time being.
Basically a crepinette is a piece of meat with a little stuffing on it, usually a lamb chop or a filet, wrapped in caul fat and roasted. The caul fat melts, and traps the stuffing inside, leaving a beautiful silhouette around the meat.
If you aren’t familiar with caul fat (also known as lace fat), it’s a thin, fatty membrane that surrounds the internal organs of four legged animals. If you get a hold of some, it will likely be pork caul, which is my favorite, since it doesn’t seem to have as many large clumps of fat as lamb or beef, which can get a little flubbery.
I love caul for it’s versatility: you can stuff it with just about anything, it melts and becomes nearly invisible, and it has a unique shape.
Caul can be tricky to find, but you can look for it through your local butcher. It isn’t used often, and plenty of places that process meat just throw it away, so ask around and you might get lucky.
To start burning through the Spring stash of morels, I thought it would be fun make a crepinette stuffing filled with them to bursting, it turned out great.
Here’s the jist of the dish:
Take a bunch of dried morels, rehydrate them, then cook them down in their juice until they caramelize with some shallots and herbs, then you pack the mushrooms on top of a steak, wrap the whole she-bang in caul fat, and glaze it quickly under the broiler to crisp the caul.
Making sure to cut the morels into very large pieces made their texture really really stand out, as well as giving a crazy looking cross section when the whole thing was sliced.
There is plenty of room for improv here too. I served the crepinette with a warm grain salad and a glace flavored with the morel liquid and pickled ramps, but those are just examples.
I also used a beef filet here, but you wouldn’t even have to use steak here at all-a sausage mixture would be great with a little stuffing on top too, wrapped in the caul.
Steak and Morels en Crepinette, with Nettles and Grains
- 4 eight ounce beef filets
- 8 cups small to medium sized dried morels
- Pork caul cut into squares large enough to wrap the steaks topped with mushrooms
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 1 gallon unsalted beef stock preferably homemade
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- Lard or cooking oil for searing the beef
- 1/4 cup shallot diced 1/8 in
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
- 1/2 cup dry sherry
- 1 recipe grain and nettle pilaf recipe follows-optional
- 1 recipe pickled ramp-morel glace recipe follows
- Pour beef stock over the dried morels to cover. Allow the morels to rehydrate, then agitate vigorously to remove any grit. Remove the morels from the liquid, slice each mushroom in half, then strain the liquid through a chinois or cheesecloth (or coffee filter). Reserve 3 quarts of strained stock for the morel-ramp glace (see below), and the rest for the morel stuffing.
- Heat the lard or cooking oil in a pan and sear each filet for 2 minutes on each side to brown them. Do not move the steaks while they sear, and flip them only once. when the steaks are seared, but still very rare, remove them and set aside while you cook the morels.
- Melt 1 T of the butter in the pan you used to cook the steaks. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, about two minutes, add the dried morels and cook for 2 minutes more, season with salt and pepper, then deglaze with the sherry and cook down until the pan is nearly dry. Next add the reserved morel liquid, and cook until the pan is nearly dry again, this could take 15-20 minutes. Add the fresh chopped thyme, double check the seasoning for salt and pepper and reserve until needed.
- To prepare the crepinettes, take each seared steak and put it in the center of a piece of caul fat that will fit it. Put some of the cooked morels on top of each steak, making sure there is enough caul to completely cover and hold everything together. Wrap the steaks in caul fat and reserve until you're ready to bake them and serve.
- To serve the crepinettes, heat an oven to 400 and put the steaks on a cookie sheet with a resting rack so that the bottoms don't overcook. Bake the crepinettes until just warmed through in the middle, then broil them to crisp the caul for a few minutes.
- Divide some of the pilaf between each of 4 warmed dinner plates, top with a crepinette, then the ramp glace and serve immediately.
Pickled Ramp-Morel Glace
- 1/4 cup chopped pickled ramps
- Ramp pickling liquid to taste
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 3 qts unsalted beef stock left over from reconstituting morels see above
- Put the stock in a wide pot and bring to a simmer. Cook the stock until reduced to 2 cups, this will take a few hours. When the stock is reduced, add the ramps, and ramp pickling liquid to taste. Season the glace with salt and pepper and reserve. From this point the glace can be made ahead of time, days in advance. When you heat up the glace to serve, whisk in a tablespoon of unsalted butter while the sauce is at a simmer to thicken it and give some body.
Grain And Stinging Nettle Pilaf
- 1/2 cup barley
- 1/2 cup wheat berries
- 1/2 cup wild rice preferably wood parched
- Water as needed for cooking the grains
- Kosher salt as needed for seasoning the water, plus more to taste
- Fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 lb nettles blanched in salted water and shocked in an ice bath to preserve their color, then chopped roughly
- Unsalted butter to taste, a tablespoon for sauteing shallots, and more if desired
- 1/4 cup shallot diced 1/4 in
- Meat stock to moisten the pan, (optional)
- Cook each of the grains individually in salted water until tender. Wheat berries will take the longest, along with wild rice if you are using cultivated (as opposed to wood parched), followed by the barley. When each grain is cooked, drain it, rinse to remove the starch, then cool, and reserve until needed. To reheat and serve the grains, melt a tablespoon of butter in a deep sauce pot, a 4 qt size will do.
- Add the shallots to the butter and cook, seasoning with salt and pepper lightly, until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the grains and chopped, blanched nettles, and stir to combine. If the pan gets dry, add a little meat stock, (a knob of butter never hurt anyone either). Double check the seasoning for salt and pepper, then serve immediately. The pilaf can be made in advance and held warm for extended periods of time, it's very forgiving.