One of the secrets of French cooking is Creme Fraiche, pronounced "krem-ˈfresh". This cultured milk product is made by letting the natural lactic bacteria in the cream develop. I love seeing a very short list of ingredients and Vermont Butter and Cheese Creme Fraiche has two ingredients, cream and culture. Creme Fraiche is similar to sour cream and can be used in much the same way. But the secret of Creme Fraiche is that it will not separate like sour cream does at high temperature or when wine is added.
Creme Fraiche does not taste as sour as sour cream. Its flavor is nuttier with a hint of almond and has a deep richness and creamy body. It can be used for baking, added to salad dressings and dips and even made into ice cream. It will make sauces richer and is a wonderful compliment for fish. You can also add a dollop to any soup or use as a topping for fresh fruit. Creme Fraiche can be whipped and if you like things a bit sweeter you can add sugar or honey and cinnamon and serve with strawberries.
This is a versatile staple of French cooking worthy of space in your refrigerator. It may be more expensive than sour cream but it has more uses and holds up when heated or reheated in the microwave. I took some Salmon into work with a sour cream based sauce and after I zapped it in the microwave I was left with a chunky curd accompaniment. If I had used Creme Fraiche, the sauce would have stayed the same.
Here is a recipe for a Blue Cheese Dip which can be thinned with half and half or milk to be used as a salad dressing. For a lower fat version, use skim milk and reduced fat mayo but never skimp on the cheese or Creme Fraiche.
• 1 cup Maytag Blue cheese, crumbled (or your favorite blue cheese, Buttermilk Blue will add more tang)
• 1/4 cup Creme Fraiche
• 1/4 cup mayonnaise
• 1/2 cup half and half
• 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
• 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
• 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
Combine above ingredients and allow flavors to marry for a day or two to provide optimal flavor. Don't worry, it will stay fresh for about a week.