May 20, 2006

Crème Fraîche

There are many, many things that are better in France. If I start listing them, we'll be here 'til Bastille Day, so I'll just pluck one thing off the list for today. It's the oh-so-magical substance that God herself gave the French, so that, if nothing else, they can hold it over our heads. It's crème fraîche and I can't get enough of it!
Before moving to Paris, I always thought it was just fancy sour cream. I didn't especially need sour cream in my life, so I hardly bothered with it. Now I find myself lost in the kitchen without it. (Yes, I make too many dishes that require high fat dairy, sue me...) Nothing can go badly if you have it around. For those that have never been lucky enough to encounter it, it's not as tangy as sour cream; the taste and texture are smoother. I don't call it magical for nothin' -- It is naturally (yes, with germy bacteria!) thickened cream! Add it to sauces and it won't curdle when boiled. Add it to quiche/custard filling and it tastes extra rich and creamy. It can top a plate of nachos or be equally delicious in dollop-form on a slice of tarte aux fraises. Swirl it brazenly into hot soup without worrying about it breaking! Crème fraîche makes exquisite mashed potatoes, too, or it can be used in place of some of the cream for vegetables or potatoes au gratin.

For what it's worth, here are some more ideas for this versatile stuff:

Make the Alsatian specialty: Tarte Flamb
ée! When I visited Alsace last fall, I fell in love with this "almost" pizza. You can make a pretty great replica at home with a very thin pizza crust. Place on a baking sheet, spread crème fraîche thickly over the top, sprinkle with nutmeg and pepper. Top with sauteed onions and crispy cooked bacon. If you like, you can add grated gruyere cheese. Bake at 500 degrees F/250 degrees C for about 10-15 minutes. You'll be shouting "Vive l'Alsace!" I'm sure of it.

For a lovely sauce to dress some salmon fillets, stir together 1 cup crème fraîche, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 3 Tbsp chopped fresh dill, and 4-6 diced small pickles (cornichons).

Make a quick pan sauce after you sauté chicken or pork! Deglaze the pan with white wine. Add a bit of broth. Add a spoonful of dijon mustard and some crème fraîche. Simmer and stir until smooth. Sprinkle in fresh chopped herbs.

Place small spoonfuls on top of your next frittata or stir some into your next omelet or scrambled eggs!

I adore crab cakes, although I rarely get to eat them. Skip the tartar sauce and mix together 1/2 cup crème fraîche and a few tablespoons of spicy chipotle salsa for an easy sauce to top your crab cakes. Sliced avocado should be served on the side. This is a simpler version of how my favorite restaurant crab cakes are served.

Not to be forgotten are potato pancakes, of course, with some crème fraîche and applesauce!

It's also used in this recipe for Tartiflette.

And now we've come to the part where I tell you the secret to your success! This one's going out to all the people who can't find crème fraîche at the market; you can now make it yourselves!
Crème Fraîche

1 cup whipping cream (heavy cream)

2 Tbsp buttermilk (the real stuff: not low-fat!)

Place both in a clean mason jar or glass bowl, tighten the lid and shake well. Leave it on your kitchen counter for 24 hours. It will become quite thick. After the 24 hours, keep it refrigerated. It lasts for 10 days or so.

Voila! Now go about dollop-ing
crème fraîche on everything like a true goddess.


Ivonne said...

Hi Megan!

What a wonderful post about one of my very favourite ingredients. I love creme fraiche and make it all the time (using the same recipe you posted). Although sometimes I use lemon juice instead of buttermilk.

Well done!

Oob said...

Mystery revealed. Thanks, Megan!!!

Anonymous said...

I use Costco's 1% organic milk, and organic buttermilk for culture, and it makes a yummy really thick creme fraiche overnight. Last night, my oven bulb burnt out, so it went in the relatively cold oven, and still got pretty thick by this morning. I am leaving it in for a while longer to get it really thick. I have also made thick creme fraiche with non-fat organic milk. I think that it might be a matter of time to culture, not amount of fat. I also make thick yogurt with 1% and non-fat organic milk.

Shim Farm said...

Oh my frikkin' lord, tartiflette, endives au jambon and tarte flambée, all in one handy spot. May you be blessed. I just ate a crate of endives and I can't get enough! I am going to try your endives au jambon, maybe even wrap them in crêpes before broiling with the béchamel and extra gruyère. Let's face it, everything is better with more gruyère. LOL...

Also going to try your crème fraîche recipe, it looks like a winner.

Now that I'm good and hungry, I'm off to find a recipe for some aligot!

Nice to find your website, I'll be back for more.

Bonjour de Québec!