The first time I had an authentic crepe was a life-altering experience.
I was in Paris in February, and it was brutally cold, yet magical. Coming out of the Galeries Lafayette, hands clasping multiple shopping bag handles, the wafting aroma of sweet batter on a hot griddle hit me.
And there he was – the crepe man. Before him was a perfectly round griddle coated with the thinnest layer of batter. He maneuvered the spatula across the surface, gently pushing the batter out to the edge.
Waiting just a brief moment, he used a flat wood turner to slide underneath, and with a quick twist of his hand, he flipped the crepe over. He leaned over to his patron, then proceeded to drop layers of ham and what looked like some variety of Swiss cheese sliced on top.
Just as swiftly, he folded it neatly, tucked it into a wrapper, and handed it over. I was standing in line a few seconds later.
I ordered the same one – smoked ham with what turned out to be Emmental cheese. It was transformed into a molten pool over the ham before he folded and tucked it into the wrapper for me.
I stood off to the side and put my bags down on the sidewalk, not caring about its dampness from the morning’s passing rain shower. Standing still amidst a swirl of people entering and exiting the massive department store, I gently peeled back the edge of the wrapper and took a tentative bite.
Delightfully hot, but not enough to scald, all the luscious flavors hit me in succession.
The plush and sweet crepe with crispy bits was first, then the Emmental came forward. A light note of sourness with a mild nuttiness and gentle tang flooded my mouth.
And whoever smoked that ham should be given an award. The smoky saltiness exploded underneath the cheese.
I closed my eyes in utter bliss.
It wasn’t to last, however. After returning home, I searched for the same experience, only to be disappointed with tough, overcooked imposters. Or ones that were too sweet, not sweet enough, too doughy, too wet (that one was the worst), and just too awful, period.
After suffering without for years, I met my chef husband, and he came to the rescue. I watched him create the batter from scratch, deftly and gradually adding melted butter, milk, and eggs to the dry ingredients.
He winked. “That’s the secret,” he said. He didn’t have the round griddle, nor did he possess the cute trowel or wood turner that the French street vendor employed. But he had a nonstick pan, and an acrobatic wrist.
I spied the mound of bright yellow cheese. It was sharp cheddar. And I was just fine with that.
After layering on the ingredients and folding it into a floppy triangle, he served his homemade crepe to me.
Sans wrapper, I used a fork to cut through the pillowy layers. And there it was. I didn’t have a chilly Parisian morning to match, but I finally had my dream meal on a hot Miami afternoon.
Now that you have the recipe too, perfecting this dish at home all comes down to the technique. The batter needs your full attention when it’s in the pan. A moment astray will lead to overcooking.
Make sure to very lightly oil your pan after preparing each serving, as the batter will absorb all of the oil as it cooks.
Because my recipe uses thin slices of deli ham, you don’t need to cook the meat and cheese for very long, just enough to warm the slices of ham and melt the cheese.
Plain crepes will hold for at least a week in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve, simply reheat each individual crepe in a dry pan on low heat until it’s warm and pliable, and continue with adding the filling.
While the crepes will taste just fine as leftovers heated in the microwave, I do suggest that they are best when eaten as soon as they come out of the pan: cheese still sizzling, ham slices crisp around the edges, and the crepe perfectly soft and light.
It’s pure bliss, after all.Print
In this French classic, mounds of shredded cheese and sliced ham fill lightly sweetened crepes that are perfectly crisp around the edges.
For the Batter:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
For the Assembly:
- 1/8 cup vegetable oil
- 1 pound thinly sliced deli ham
- 8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar or Swiss cheese (like Emmental or Raclette)
- Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium-size bowl. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs, and milk.
- Gradually pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients while whisking constantly, until a smooth and thin batter forms. There should be no lumps.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- When ready to cook, dip a paper towel in the vegetable oil and thinly coat the bottom and sides of a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Heat the skillet over low heat.
- Pour 1/4 cup batter into middle of the pan. Immediately tilt the pan and quickly swirl the batter to evenly coat the entire bottom of the pan with a thin layer.
- Cook without moving the pan, until the edges are dry and starting to brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Loosen the edges of the crepe from the sides of the pan with a rubber spatula. Gently slide the spatula underneath the edge of the crepe, grasp the edge with your fingertips, and flip. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add 2 ounces of ham (about 2 slices) on half of the crepe, and sprinkle 1 ounce of the cheese (about 1/3 cup) on top of the ham.
- Using a spatula, fold the remaining exposed half over the ham and cheese, and gently press down. Fold over again to create a quarter fold, and gently press down.
- Cook for an additional minute on one side, then flip over and cook for another minute to get a golden-brown crust on both sides. Remove from the pan and place on a serving plate.
- Use a paper towel to wipe and clean the pan. Repeat steps 5 through 12 to create 7 more crepes.
- Category: Crepes
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: French
Keywords: ham, cheese, crepe, breakfast, brunch
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prepare the Batter and Filling
Melt the butter and allow it cool slightly.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, milk, and eggs. Make sure you’ve fully blended the yolk of each one into the mixture. It will turn a creamy light yellow.
Whisk the flour, granulated sugar, and salt together in a medium-size bowl.
Gradually pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients while whisking constantly until a smooth and thin batter forms, without any lumps.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour. This step is essential to allow the flour to absorb the liquid in order to strengthen the gluten structure. It helps create pliability, while still maintaining a soft and luscious texture.
While the batter is resting, shred the cheese. Set out the sliced ham.
Step 2 – Prepare your Pan
When you’re ready to cook, dip a paper towel in the vegetable oil and thinly coat the bottom and sides of a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Heat the skillet over low heat.
You can test the heat of the skillet by placing a teaspoon of the batter in the center, and allowing it to cook for 60 seconds. If the batter is golden brown on the bottom, the skillet is ready to use.
Step 3 – Cook
Pour 1/4 cup batter into the middle of the pan. Immediately tilt the pan and quickly swirl the batter to evenly coat the entire bottom of the pan with a thin layer.
If there are any holes in the crepe after you have swirled the pan, quickly drip some batter from a spoon to fill in any holes.
Cook without moving the pan, until the edges of the batter are dry and starting to brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Loosen the edges of the crepe from the sides of the pan with a rubber spatula. Gently slide the spatula underneath one edge of the crepe, grasp the edge with your fingertips, and flip. Let it cook for an additional minute.
Step 4 – Add the Filling
Add 2 ounces of ham (about 2 slices) on half of the crepe, and sprinkle 1 ounce of the cheese (about 1/3 cup) on top of the ham.
Love some pan-seared texture? Same! You can intentionally drape a little ham and cheese outside of the edges to sear the meat and melt the cheese even more. Those crispy edges are perfection.
Using a spatula, fold the remaining exposed half over the ham and cheese, and gently press down. Fold it over again to create a quarter fold, and gently press down once more.
Cook for an additional minute on one side, then flip it over and cook for another minute, to get a golden-brown crust on both sides.
Remove from the pan and transfer onto a serving plate.
Use a paper towel to wipe and clean the pan. Repeat Steps 2 to 4 for the remaining 7 crepes.
The Best Combinations for the Stuffing
Once you get the batter down correctly, you can pretty much fill your crepes with anything under the sun.
I think certain combinations of sweet and savory ingredients can elevate this simple street food to something extraordinary. Brunch will never be the same again! Try these versions:
- In the mood for sugar and spice? I love a sauteed apple and cinnamon filling. Even simpler, use canned apple pie filling.
- Want something elegant and savory? Spinach and ricotta cheese is an instant classic. Saute the spinach first, with a minced clove of garlic.
- For breakfast, go with scrambled eggs, crumbled sweet sausage, and a few shakes of Tabasco sauce.
Once you make this dish, you won’t be able to get enough. Check out these other tasty crepe recipes to try next:
- Buckwheat Crepes with Honeyed Ricotta and Sauteed Apples
- Light and Buttery Nut Flour Crepes with Roasted Fruit (Gluten-Free)
- 4 Delicious French Crepe Variations to Liven Up Your Breakfast
What is your favorite crepe combination? Are you a fan of ham and cheese, or would you go a sweeter route? Let us know! Be sure to come back and tell us how the recipe turned out for you in the comments below.
Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on April 14, 2013. Last updated on August 13, 2021. With additional writing and editing by Nikki Cervone.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
Eddie and Katherine D’Costa are a married professional chef and journalist duo from Atlanta, where they cook up a variety of international dishes, tested for the home cook. Katherine holds an MA in journalism from Northeastern University and Eddie’s professional experience spans 20 years working with Wolfgang Puck, Jean George Vongerichten, and Todd English.