The name ficelle picarde may be new to you, but the flavors of these ham and cheese crepes will certainly be familiar. These savory crepes have a delicious mushroom and ham filling, and comforting cheese over the top. They're slightly indulgent but hard to resist.
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When you think of French savory crepes, especially ones with ham and cheese, there's a good chance you think of buckwheat crepes from Brittany in the Northwest, but another popular version is this tasty dish from the North of the country.
They might look a little fancy, but they are surprisingly easy to make with relatively simple ingredients.
Origins of ficelle picarde
This dish originates in Amiens in the Picardy region (Picardie in French, giving part of the name of the dish). This area is now part of the Hauts-de-France administrative region. Apparently there was a exhibition/fair in the city with various notable people on the judging panel. The city's leading chefs were challenged to create a new dish, and this was Marcel Lefévre's creation to try to beat off his rivals.
It has since become a classic dish of the town, and region, as well as being enjoyed in homes around the country and beyond. With such a tasty and comforting combination of ingredients, it's easy to see why.
Components of these savory crepes
The crepes themselves are the same basic mix you would use for sweet crepes, just without the sugar. You simply mix egg, milk and flour, then let the mixture rest a little. After cooking the crepes, you fill them with ham and a mushroom duxelles. This may sound fancy, but it's really just a bit like a coarse mushroom pate. It's the mushroom component in beef Wellington, in case that's more familiar.
Once you have rolled up your filled crepes, you top them with cheese then place under the broiler to melt it. Use a hard cheese with a good flavor for this, such as Gruyere or Emmentaler. And don't skimp - you want a nice coating as it melts.
Some recipes add béchamel sauce over the crepes before or instead of adding the cheese, but this is not the more traditional style. Instead, more typical is some creme fraiche either in with the mushrooms or over the crepes to add a slight creaminess. Though it certainly works well without, as I have here.
Make ahead tips
There are a couple steps to making these, between cooking the crepes and the mushrooms, but you can do aspects ahead of time. You can make the mushroom duxelles a day or two ahead and store in the fridge. You can also make the crepe batter ahead and store it in the fridge, though only up to a day.
While you could, in theory, cook the crepes ahead and store them, I think the texture and flavor is that little better when they are fresh. So I would recommend you make the crepes, fill them and top with cheese right before serving.
While some places consider pancakes and crepes as a breakfast dish, that's less the case in France. These would generally be served as a main dish. They are certainly hearty enough to be considered a meal. Though since they are quite rich, I would balance them out with some salad on the side or before.
They also work really well as a snack, as my kids will happily agree.
Incredibly comforting, with gently soft textures ficelle picarde are just all round delicious. These mushroom and ham crepes au gratin sound a little fancy, but really it's a relatively simple combination. Yes, it's a little more work than a simple spread something on a pancake, but it's well worth that little bit extra effort.
Try these other savory pancake ideas:
- Chinese scallion pancakes (cong you bing)
- Austrian/German pancake soup (with crepes in the soup as 'noodles')
- Chicken crepes with leek and mushrooms
- Plus get more French recipes and main dish recipes in the archives.
Ficelle picarde - mushroom and ham crepes au gratin
For crepe batter
- 1 egg
- ½ cup flour
- 1 pinch salt
- ½ cup milk
For mushroom duxelle
- ½ oz shallot (½ oz is approx ½ a shallot)
- ¼ lb mushrooms crimini or white
- ½ clove garlic optional
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoon white wine optional but recommended
For rest of dish
- ½ tablespoon butter approx - to cook crepes
- 3 slices cooked ham or 2 if crepes larger and larger slices of ham
- 2 oz gruyere cheese or Emmentaler, grated
To prepare crepe batter
- Place the egg, flour and salt in a bowl and mix together into a paste - don't worry if it's not fully combined, you more want to break the egg up.
- Gradually add the milk and whisk until the batter is smooth, then set aside. Alternatively, you can mix everything in a blender. Either way, it's best to let the batter rest around 20-30 minutes to hydrate - you can prepare the mushrooms in the meantime.
For mushroom duxelles
- Finley chop the shallot and dice the mushrooms into a small dice. Crush or finely chop the garlic, if using.
- Warm the butter in a wide skillet/frying pan over a medium heat then add the shallots. Cook to soften, stirring now and then. Add the garlic after a minute, if using, and cook until soft but not browning.
- Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring regularly, so that the mushrooms soften. They will initially release liquid as they soften, but keep cooking and they will then evaporate the liquid.
- When there is no more liquid in the skillet, add the white wine and stir so that it mixes and is absorbed or evaporates. Once there is no more liquid, remove from the heat and set aside.
To cook crepes and assemble
- When ready to cook crepes, melt a little butter on a crepe pan and when hot, pour some of the batter on to the pan and quickly swirl so that the batter spreads into a thin layer, filling the pan. (If you have proper crepe-making tools you can use these, but this is the method if you don't.)
- Let the crepe cook until dry on top and edges starting to curl slightly then carefully flip over with a spatula. Cook on other side until you have light brown spots, then remove and repeat with rest of batter. You should get two large or three small er crepes, depending on the size of your pan.
- Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.
- Place a slice of ham on top of each crepe then a line of the mushroom mixture on top, slightly to one side. On the side with the mushrooms closest, roll up the crepe with the fillings inside. You want it tight enough to hold together, but not so that the filling spills out.
- Repeat with the rest of the crepes then place them in an ovenproof dish. Scatter the grated cheese over the top of the crepes, covering them fairly evenly, then bake in the pre-heated oven for around 5 - 7 minutes until the cheese has melted and the edges of the crepes are just starting to brown.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.