Excuse me while I take a moment to pop the top button on my skinning jeans and ask, “What is not to love about crème fraîche?” Bien sûr, it holds a place on the 365-things-I-love-about-France list. And who’d of thunk that before I landed in Paris, I’d never even heard of it.
According to people in the know, all you need is one willing dairy cow, a set of nimble milking hands, a simple means to separate the milk from the cream, and a little time to let the natural lactic bacteria take over, et voilà, before you know it: crème fraîche; the most delicious and divine “sour cream” you can imagine, albeit with a MUCH higher fat content. I shudder to associate American sour cream with French crème fraîche, there really is no comparison, especially when you buy it from the lively M. Laitier at le Marché Saxe in the seventh arrondissement in Paris.
In regards to French cooking, Julia Childs certainly had it right when she said, “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.” And boy do the Frenchies know how to use cream. Each time I take a French cooking class, at least one, if not all five recipes call for a minimum of one generous tablespoon. Crème fraîche is used in sauces, dressing, pastry, custards, and soups; with, poultry, beef, pork, fish, chocolate, tartes and crêpes. Of course it is exquisite with fresh fruit; or if you are like me, you could always eat it straight from the pot. Its unique sweet and slightly tangy flavor and creamy texture is, as Button would say, “Like heaven popped on a plate!”
Can’t find it in your favorite grocery store back home, try this do-it-yourself recipe from Emeril Lagasse.
bien sûr – of course
crème fraîche – fresh cream
le laitier – milkman, dairy farmer