There are a handful of kitchen ingredients that always provoke an eye roll from yours truly. Truffle salt. Yerba Buena. Artisanal butter. Essential oil crystals.
Really? Our palates are so sophisticated and refined we need to saute our new potatoes in $32 artisanal butter flown halfway across the world? Good ol’ organic Vermont butter just won’t cut it?
I get as blown away and wrapped up in the beautifully packaged, overpriced silliness at Whole Foods as the next Gastronomica subscribing kombucha quaffer, but when I find myself rationalizing double digit expenditures on unpasteurized dairy products, I try to remind myself:
This isn’t rocket science. We’re not saving lives.
We are just whipping up some ingredients to put on a plate for our friends and family to eat.
Why do we need to complicate things with esoteric froufrou?
However. There are exceptions.
Crème fraiche, in my mind, falls into the dubious category of over-priced designer fridge n’ pantry accouterments, but rules are made to be broken.
This summer, everywhere I went, it was on sale (was their a market glut? If so, can it be replicated now that Fall is here and I need cream-based sauces in my life more than ever?), and I became hooked. I started surreptitiously dipping late summer berries in it; before long, I was whipping it into salad dressings and swirling it into soups. I hit rock-bottom when I started spooning it over my oatmeal and casually slathering my low-fat frozen yogurt in goopy globs of it. (In what universe does it make sense to add a half-cup of fat-laden dairy products to diet desserts? No se.)
Crème fraiche is lush; it’s a culinary makeover in an adorable, pert tub. It’s delicacy is balanced by its soul-satisfying deep-dark chasm of intense flavor. Boil it (it won’t curdle), serve it straight up (it can stand on its own), add it to sauces for added depth (you’ll be shocked at how much more full and complete they taste with just a tablespoon or two). Richer than Midas, crème fraiche is light as a wisp of late-summer wind.
I made a roast pork loin this past weekend with a standard stock-based sauce to drizzle on top. It was quite good. But I knew it could be phenomenal. I tasted another spoonful of sauce. More butter? Eh. Salt? No, not with my salty loin. Stock? Heavens no, that would thin it. Shrooms? No, too chunky! And then reached into the back of the fridge for the crème fraiche to finish the sauce. I took another taste, and I knew I’d hit flavor pay-dirt. Huzzah.
Crème fraiche is one designer ingredient I’ll shell out an extra shekel or two for. Like the chic, battered Louis Vuitton my mom has been hauling around for 20 years, it’s more than a trendy blip on the scene. It’s been around. It’s seen some stuff. It’s here to stay.
(And if your weakness is truffle salt, your secret is safe with me. We all have our problems).
Click on for my crème fraiche-infused, saucy pork loin on rice recipe.
(Side note: Unlike crème fraiche, pork loin is extremely cost effective ounce for ounce, but its cheapness comes at a price. These days, American pigs are bred to be super light on fat and grocery store loin needs a serious dose of flava’, in the form here of brief pan-searing, garlic sewing and sauce dolloping, to make it as delicious as the iconic roast loin we remember from our childhoods).