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Ingredient Challenge: Cantaloupe, Chile Peppers, Fava Beans

By Dennis Linden

Chef Lety’s Yucatan background and culinary creativity shines through in this tasty dish that naturalizes the very French crêpe into a Product of Mexico using a few traditional Latin components as well as a Mediterranean-Latin favorite, fresh fava beans.
Image of Chef Lety
This month’s Guest Chef uses her challenge ingredients to create a crêpe that celebrates May’s Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day all on one plate! In fact, use this recipe as the centerpiece for a homemade Mother’s Day brunch and eliminate spending any of that special day in a crowded restaurant foyer waiting for a table. Unless, of course, it is to enjoy other tasty creations that Chef Leticia (Lety) Hanson will be serving that day at her Sabor Cocina Mexicana restaurants! With two Southern California locations, in Valencia and Thousand Oaks, the chef and husband Mark provide a richly appointed, upscale setting to experience fine Mexican cuisine.

Chef Lety’s Yucatan background and culinary creativity shines through in this tasty dish that naturalizes the very French crêpe into a Product of Mexico using a few traditional Latin components as well as a Mediterranean-Latin favorite, fresh fava beans.

This is a special recipe for a special holiday that does require an overnight preparation of one ingredient, the Crème Mexicana. Actually, for a smooth and effortless Mother’s Day Sunday Brunch, three of the four components in Chef Lety’s recipe should all be done on Saturday. That will leave the task of making perfect crêpes the next morning; the other parts can be reheated just before plating.

The Crème Mexicana, which is used in two of Chef Lety’s components, is a good place to start with this recipe. While this crema can be found premade, in stores, if you don’t have access to a Latin foods specialty grocery outlet, it is also very easy to make. I found a plethora of variations on the Internet, so chose the simplest – 1 cup cream to ¼ cup of sour cream. Combine the cream, which has been warmed to 100°F, with the sour cream; pour the mixture into a glass jar and let it sit at room temperature for 12 hours. The results are a thinner Latin version of Crème Fraiche. This will not be the only time in this recipe that Chef Lety will lend her culinary heritage to a French favorite!
Image of peppers
Two of the chef’s components require roasted peppers – all of the yellow bells and one of the Pasillas. No need to risk charring finger tips as well as the peppers individually over a stovetop flame. Just pop them into a 400°F oven on a foiled cooking tray. Turn the peppers about every 15 minutes, until all sides are evenly cooked and the skin unevenly blistered. Let them cool in a sealed paper bag to make peeling the thin skins easier. Roasting peppers of any kind will deepen, sweeten and add an earthiness to their flavor.

The chef’s Cantaloupe & Yellow Pepper Sauce is a deceivingly simple mix of a few ingredients seldom paired… but it works deliciously. The rich blend of the roasted peppers and Crema is lightened subtly with the hint of a fresh cantaloupe aftertaste. Of course, the sauce’s brilliant yellow certainly adds a dazzle to the presentation that will evoke an automatic smile from mom and everyone else at your table! It’s a plate of morning sunshine!
Image of Fava Beans
Preparing the Fava bean purée is another reason to start on Saturday. The Favas add some beautiful color, texture and buttery flavor to this dish; they also take some dedicated time to prepare correctly. Chef Lety puts another Latin twist on this traditional Italian bean purée by spicing things up a notch with two kinds of chile peppers. The Pasilla is one of the most flavorful varieties available, especially when roasted; the Serrano adds just the right amount of heat, which really helps the purée hold its own in the dish’s flavor profile in spite of it being sandwiched deep inside the crepe stack. The Fava purée finds its way onto every delicious forkful. For everything you ever wanted to know about Fava beans, check out this month’s Produce Corner elsewhere on this site.

Chef Lety’s chicken filling is a very tasty, very Latin-inspired recipe that definitely could have a career beyond being a component of this crepe. BTW, do not just skip the epazote called for in this component if you cannot readily find it. Look harder, as the herb has a distinctly strong flavor that really has no substitute and also is designed to complement the Fava bean purée. Epazote is the secret to making a Mexican dish taste like Mexico, if you will, and a key herb of the cuisine. Actually, a day after my tasting of the chef’s recipe, I admit to enjoying some of what was left of this delicious filling over rice and topped with a bit of Chef Lety’s luscious Cantaloupe-Yellow Pepper sauce for a quick dinner – wonderful!

The crêpe – Chef Lety style! What a difference a Pasilla pepper can make to this time-honored, hallowed French tradition. In fact, do not let any notions of what the perfect crêpe should look like intimidate you. You don't need a special pan to make crêpes: a small nonstick pan that is about 8 inches in diameter will work perfectly. Think thin, but do not worry a culinary whit if your crêpes are not paper thin, as some crêpe-heads would insist. Use no more than about two tablespoons of batter and coax it to spread as evenly as possible without worrying about achieving perfection. If you're making crepes to serve a large group, just put each finished crêpe on a plate in a barely warm (200°F) oven, until you are ready to assemble all the servings at once. Mostly, just have fun with the process – Julia Childs (or Chef Lety) is not standing behind you and if either were, they would say the same thing. Enjoy and Happy Mom’s Day!

Crepas Mexicanas Poblanas
Serves 8
Image of Crepas Mexicanas Poblanas

2 cups Flour
1 teaspoon Salt
1 Pasilla Pepper, boiled then quickly blended in a food processor
1½ Eggs
1 cup Milk
1 Tablespoon Butter, melted

Mix flour and salt in a bowl, in a different bowl, combine all the ingredients, add flour mixture, and blend into batter. Heat a non-stick, small, flat pan; ladle a thin layer of the crêpe batter onto the hot pan and spread to the edges to make them as round as possible, cook both sides to a slight golden brown.

Cantaloupe/ Yellow Pepper Sauce

6 ounces Onion, rough chopped
6 cloves Garlic
12 ounces Fresh Cantaloupe
7 Roasted Yellow Bell Peppers
1 cup Whole Milk
2 cups Crema Mexicana
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Sauté onions and garlic, then blend all ingredients in a processor and strain. Transfer to a saucepan on a low, slow simmer for 15 minutes to develop flavor.

Fava Bean Purée

12 ounces Onion, rough chopped
1 Serrano Pepper, seeded and chopped
1 Pasilla Pepper, roasted and peeled
1 pound Fresh Fava Beans, shucked, blanched, peeled (about 3 pounds of Pods)
Salt, to taste
½ cup Whole Milk

Sauté onions, peppers, and the cooked fava beans. Season with salt. Add milk and cook for about 10 minutes, then blend the mixture in a food processor to purée.

Chicken Filling Ingredients
2 pounds Chicken Breasts
3 ounces Onion
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 cup Fresh Corn, roasted
2 Tablespoons crushed fresh Epazote Leaves
1½ cups Crema Mexicana
1 small Zucchini, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Boil chicken in water with half the amount of onions and garlic until cooked through; cool and shred chicken, set aside. Sauté the rest of the onions, and garlic, corn, epazote leaves, cream and zucchini, season with salt and pepper, then cook for about 15 minutes. Add shredded chicken, simmer for about 10 minutes.

Crêpe Assembly
Pool a ladle of sauce in center of the plate, place a crêpe in the middle of the sauce, top with Fava bean puree; stack another crêpe over the puree and the a layer the chicken filling; place a last crêpe on top of the filling then drizzle more sauce over the stack, top with avocado slices and two sprigs of chives.
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