The Baking Staple You Need For No-Frills Savory Crepes

Crepes may sound like fancy fare, and they certainly have their place as such. Consider, for example, the work-intensive ficelle picarde, a savory crepes-based dish that's best reserved for special occasions — given the nearly 90 minutes it can take to prepare it properly. Ironically, however, crepes are among the world's simplest foods, requiring a mere three ingredients: flour, milk, and egg.

So it seems only fair that crepes should enjoy their rightful place on no-frills weekday dinner tables — not unlike the place that corn tortillas may hold in some Mexican spreads or cornmeal fritters, in some branches of Native American cuisine. In fact, why not take a page out of traditional corn-centric American cooking practices and enhance your crepes, likewise, with a generous sprinkle of cornmeal? In fact, why not make savory cornmeal crepes the basis of your no-frills weekday dinner tonight (just add leftover ... beef stew, maybe)?

After all, cornmeal is so ubiquitous a baking staple, you may already have a sack of it in your pantry — patiently awaiting its opportunity to contribute to something other than cornbread and polenta. And it's all you need (besides flour, milk, and eggs) to make your no-frills savory crepes a memorable dining experience, weekday or otherwise.

Stir some cornmeal into your crepes batter and taste the magic

Cornmeal may strike you as an ordinary American baking staple, but it has a secret superpower — it's able to deliver a heartier texture and chewier bite to crepes, as well as a rounder flavor, all of which complement many a savory entrée. While cornmeal comes in various grinds, from the finest masa harina to the roughest-hewn stuff that you probably use when you make polenta, all grinds will work for this purpose.

You'll just want to bear in mind that the coarser the grind, the more texture it will provide to your crepes, in part because coarser ground cornmeal takes longer to break down in the presence of liquid. Since crepes go from idea to execution in a matter of minutes, larger cornmeal granules retain more of their integrity. You'll also want to consider the grind when it comes to deciding how much cornmeal to add to your batter.

Generally speaking, with finer cornmeal, you'll be able to substitute at least a third of the flour. In fact, if you're out of flour altogether but have fine cornmeal on hand, you can substitute one for one. When using coarser grinds, for the sake of neater crepes that won't break apart when you fold them, it's best to lower the cornmeal-to-flour ratio.