There are three cooking operations involved in this recipe–making the crepes, the filling, and the sauce. The filling and the sauce can be made the day before; and though the crepes can be made then, I’d advise cooking them in the afternoon of the day of the party.
Filling: Carefully pick over 1 pound cooked crab meat and remove all bones or hard particles. Use either frozen or canned crab. Cut 15 water chestnuts into quite small pieces. If you can’t get water chestnuts, substitute button mushrooms. Finely chop 1 medium onion, 3 tbs. chives and 4 tbs. parsley. In a skillet or heavy stewing kettle melt 4 tbs. butter or margarine, add water chestnuts or mushrooms, onion and 1 clove garlic, finely minced, and saute, stirring often, until onion begins to brown a little. Add crab, chives, parsley, 2 ½ tsp. salt, 1 tsp. black pepper, 3 tbs. catsup, Tabasco to taste and two cups milk. Bring to a boil and add 4 tbs. cornstarch mixed to a paste with ¼ cup milk. Stir until mixture is thick and bubbling.
Cheese Sauce for Crepes: In top of double boiler, melt 5 tbs. butter or margarine, blend in 5 tbs. flour and stir in 2 cups milk (if you like, ½ cup sherry may be substituted for ½ cup milk). Add 4 ounces Gruyere cheese grated or cut into small pieces (or 4 ounces pasteurized process Swiss cheese), 5 tbs. grated parmesan cheese, ¼ tsp. saffron, 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp. pepper. Cook over direct heat until thick and boiling, stirring constantly, or cook in double boiler, stirring often. Taste for salt and add more if needed. The last time I made this I used 1 ¼ tsp. salt, but Parmesan cheese varies in saltiness, so proceed cautiously.
Crepes: This recipe will make about 18 crepes 5 ½” in diameter. Break 5 eggs into a bowl and beat with rotary beater 1 minute. Add 1 ½ cups milk, 1 cup cold water, 1 ¼ cups flour, 1 ½ tsp. salt and 1 tsp. sugar. Beat with rotary beater until blended into a thin smooth batter. Let stand 1 hour before frying the crepe. You’ll need a small skillet whose bottom diameter is 5 ½ inches. If you don’t have one, they are inexpensive and easy to find and are handy for a lot of things. Put skillet over medium high heat, add a small piece of butter or margarine and when melted, pour in a small quantity of the batter. Immediately tilt skillet from side to side to spread batter in an even layer over bottom. When bottom side of pancake is delicately browned, turn it over with a spatula or pancake turner and brown the other side. Transfer to cooky sheet lined with wax paper. Continue until all batter is gone. Each pancake will use about 5 tbs. batter, but they must be poured into the skillet simultaneously–not a tbs. at a time. A good system for gauging quantity is to measure 5 tbs. into a ladle and carefully observe the level. From there on your eye will guide you, and if there is a slight variation in the thickness of pancakes, it’s okay.
Now you’re ready for the assembly line. Heat sauce in top of double boiler while you fill the crepes–the filling should be cold for easy handling. Heap a line of filling across the center of a pancake and work it with your fingers until it is even. Flap one side of the pancake over the limit, then roll. For a guide as to the amount of filling to use, the roll should be about 1 ½” diameter. Grease one very large or two medium-sized pyrex baking dishes. When all the crepes are filled, add two egg yolks to cheese sauce and put a thin layer of cheese sauce in the bottom of the casserole and fit the rolls in, flapped side down. Spoon the rest of the sauce over them, being careful not to obscure the shape of the rolls, and sprinkle generously with grated Parmesan cheese. If your casserole has a lid, put it on; if not, cover top with aluminum foil or slip casserole into a paper bag, fold the ends over and fasten with paperclips in hot–400F degree oven. Shortly before serving, remove lid or covering, put casserole near broiler and brown a little. Turn off broiler put casserole on lower rack and let stand until ready to serve.