I’ve had it flagged for a long time but it wasn’t until this weekend that I finally made a batch of Galician filloas. Served year around in northern Spain, they are most popular during early winter’s carnival season. Similar to crêpes, they’re made from with the usual suspects – flour, eggs, milk – but can also be blended with stock and cooked off with bacon fat or lard instead of butter. The thin batter is poured onto a hot skillet (or a stone), flipped and filled or sprinkled with sugar and served as dessert. Hovering somewhere between sweet and savory, they can be hard to classify.
The benefits of using lard are pretty well established at this point, but not all lard is created equal. I buy mine at G. Esposito and Sons Jersey Pork Store where it’s freshly rendered on the premises. The shelves are lined with enormous cans of tomatoes, and the walls are covered with religious images, family photos, and glowing reviews. Rising above the din is the lushest Italian music you could imagine. The atmosphere is Carrol Gardens, Brooklyn but the soundtrack is pure Katherine Hepburn in Summertime.
The first time I found it there, I’d just asked for one of the small tubs in the display case when the owner looked me up and down and pronounced, “Lard?- You’re not the type.” Admitting that no – I wasn’t, I couldn’t help but worry about the customer who walks in, gets sized up, then asked how much lard they’d like. Apparently, the only people at G. Esposito and Sons who follow Michael Pollan‘s mandate to eat like your great grandmother are actual great grandmothers
With my off-type lard melted and the batter resting, I was looking for a filling. The pork flavor may have been more pronounced if I’d used bacon fat but it was barely detectable in the lard. Still, I wanted something that would play well with the savory elements that did come through. I kept it simple – nectarines tossed with honey, quickly grilled, and sprinkled with thyme. I picked up my favorite fresh ricotta nearby – another neighborhood staple item, rediscovered in the last couple of years, that was hiding in plain sight.
Filloas with Grilled Nectarines, Ricotta and Thyme
Adapted from a recipe for filloas in Spain…A Culinary Road Trip by Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow. There were several online recipes that left out the chicken stock altogether but I was curious how it would affect the flavor. It was much stronger in the batter but blended in when they were cooked. They also reheated well so I was able to try them with all kinds of fillings over the next few days – preserves, chocolate, ham and cheese – but not at the same time.
Filloas came to Spain via Rome so it’s understandable if Spaniards bristle when they’re called crêpes. Not only are they popular during carnival, they’re also traditional during la matanza del cerdo when all kinds of products using pork – morcilla, embutidos, chorizos – are prepared. A variation calling for pig’s blood or filloas de sangre, I’ll leave for another day and what will doubtless be a memorable trip to the pork store.
2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup chicken stock
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
About 1-2 tablespoons quality lard, bacon fat, or olive oil
4-5 nectarines, ripe but still firm, pitted and quartered
2 tablespoons raw honey
1 tablespoon thyme, roughly chopped
For the filloas:
Sift together the flours and salt in a separate bowl breaking up any lumps. Combine the flours, eggs, stock and milk in a blender jar. Cover and blend at highest speed for 1 minute. Scape down the sides with a rubber spatula as needed and blend for 2 to 3 seconds more. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Melt lard in a saucepan over low heat. Set aside.
Heat a heavy cast-iron skillet or crêpe pan over moderately high heat. Brush with melted lard. Take pan off heat and, holding the handle of the pan, pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the middle of the pan. Tilt the pan in all directions to so that batter evenly coats the bottom of the pan. Return to heat and cook for 30 to 60 seconds until lightly browned. Turn and cook on the other side an additional 30 seconds. Cool on a rack before stacking on a plate. Add more butter or oil as needed and repeat with remaining batter.*
Spread crêpes with two heaping tablespoon of ricotta and sliced nectarines. Roll jelly-roll style or fold in half.
*Filloas can be kept in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve. They can also be made in advance and reheated before using. If frozen, thaw overnight in the refrigerator then reheat in a 300 degree oven for 5-10 minutes.
For the nectarines:
Heat a well-oiled grill pan over medium-high heat. In a medium bowl, toss the nectarine slices with honey until well coated. Lay the nectarine slices on the pan in a single layer and grill until cooked through, turning once and brushing with honey as needed, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat. Place on serving tray and sprinkle generously with thyme leaves. Cover with foil to keep warm and set aside until ready to fill the filloas.
Makes 8-10 10-inch filloas.