In my lifetime, I’ve bought (and eaten) a pretty significant amount of creme fraiche, which is like a thicker, tangier sour cream that falls somewhere between condiment and fresh cheese. I’m not a terribly fancy hors d’oeuvres person, but every so often there’s a recipe that calls for it, or a dessert that might otherwise be too sweet. I’m a big fan of serving it alongside chocolate cake, which I think I stole from April Bloomfield at The Spotted Pig long enough ago that it’s officially become my own personal thing.
It took me until now to make creme fraiche for the first time, and not only is it so simple it shouldn’t even be called a recipe, it’s so much better (and significantly cheaper) than the store-bought variety.
Basically, you mix some cream (ideally just regular pasteurized, not ultra-pasteurized, but it’s not the end of the world if all you can get is ultra-pasteurized) with some buttermilk and let it sit out at room temperature for a day or two. As it sits, it’ll get thicker and tangier and funkier, and once it’s where you want it, refrigerate it. It’s basically a food miracle. I’ve been eating the batch we made on my eggs every morning and it rules. (I think it’d be great on baked potatoes or nachos.) It’s also a perfect hostess gift, because no one needs to know how easy it is. Go make some — I promise you won’t regret it.
Super Food Nerds is a column written in alternating installments by Rupa (food and beverage editor, culinary staff) and Jonathan (research librarian, same place). Each post will be dedicated to a particular topic — how to DIY something you don’t normally DIY, how to perfect a dish usually taken for granted, plus the best techniques, underlying chemistries and a handful of inexplicable preferences. Basically, if they can overthink it, they’re on it.