To Enrich Both Sweet and Savory Spring Dishes—
Why not put a little culture in your cream? Especially now that we’ve officially entered the season of strawberry fields forever. Ripe juicy berries lavished with thick fresh cream capture the very essence of spring, but you don’t have to stop there. Keep spreading the love around with dollops of crème fraiche in and on more than a few of your favorite things. To soften your salad dressings, smooth out the soup, embellish new potatoes, elevate baby leeks, garnish shelled peas, or transform pan juices into a creamy sauce. Such simple indulgence knows no bounds. Nor should it.
"Creme Fraiche", continued:
Sweet cream is cultured to thicken and expand the flavor. Many of us grew up with American sour cream as an essential ingredient in period piece recipes like “French” onion dip, thousand island dressing, bargain beef stroganoff, and cheesecake with graham cracker crust. We still use it in potato salad, with salsas, avocados and all kinds of things. But when cooking with sour cream, you have to be careful not to get it too hot or it will curdle. Not so with our French cousin crème fraiche. It can take the heat to provide a reliable liaison and/or embellishment in countless other dishes as well. It’s also sweeter and creamier, cultured enough to develop a tangy dimension without actually turning sour.
You can, of course, just buy it. At least now that we have a wide variety of best quality artisan products more readily available. But it’s so easy to make. And when I’ve offered comparative tastings in class, students are always drawn to and amazed by the full-flavored freshness in homemade cultured cream. So here’s how to make it. And once you do, you’ll also have a starter for each successive batch. Now you can put a Spring in your cooking the whole year round.
Casual Recipe for Creme Fraiche
heavy cream (NOT ultra-pasteurized) [2 cups]
buttermilk [3 Tb] -OR- sour cream [1 cup]
- Whisk together the heavy cream and buttermilk or sour cream.
- Cover with a clean cotton cloth and set in a mildly warm place until thickened [about 12 hours at around 75 degrees].
- Whisk to evenly smooth and refrigerate, covered, to keep for up to two weeks. [It will thicken more as it chills; whisk to soften before serving.]
and Play with:
Use creme fraiche in almost anything you might add either heavy or sour cream to. It can stand alone as a side amendment, but will also welcome the simple addition of countless herb and spice combinations. And if you're using it to accompany sweet treats, you can always try whisking in a little sugar, vanilla, Grand Marnier, and/or finely grated lemon zest.
When you are almost out, you can start a new batch by just whisking in some more heavy cream and repeating the culturing process [much like refreshing a natural bread dough starter]; exact measurements are not necessary at this point.
Bon Appetit! Kay