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).
Roast Pork Loin with Crème-Fraiche Veloute
Makes 6 hearty servings
- 1 TBSP olive oil
- 2 big garlic cloves, sliced lengthwise into thin pieces
- 1 pork loin (about 2 ½ pounds, preferably bone-out center cut)
- A big glug of red wine, the fruitier the better
- 3 bay leaves, separated
- 4 ½ TBSP butter, separated
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms (cremini, button, baby bella, whatever you have on hand)
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 3 cups good stock (preferably homemade chicken)
- ¼ cup crème fraiche
- 2 cups rice, cooked according to package directions (I pop 2 of the bay leaves and a dash of olive oil in heavily salted water)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 225 degrees.
- Put inch-deep slits in the fatty side of the pork and slip in the garlic slices. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Wrap it in twine (or have your butcher do it) securely.
- Heat oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat with olive oil until just smoking. Add pork loin, fat side down to skillet and cook until fat browns, about 5-8 minutes. (Just sear the fat-laden side to lock in flavor and give it a caramelized Mallard kick that an oven roast alone could never accomplish). When the fatty side is browned nicely, remove the skillet from the heat and carefully add a dollop or two of wine and the bay leaf. Don’t pour the wine in straight from the bottle, it could catch fire and cause the bottle to blow. Just pour in a bit from a cup.
- Cover and place in oven. Roast for about 40 minutes and then crank up the heat until the internal temp registers 140 degrees, about 25 more minutes for a 2 ½ pounder. Tent with foil and rest the meat for about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, as the pork cooks, make the veloute. Melt ½ TBSP butter in a medium saucepan and sautee to the mushrooms with plenty of salt and pepper until they caramelize and release all of their liquid, about 10 minutes over medium heat. Remove from pan. Melt the remaining butter over medium heat in the pan, add the flour and stir until the mixture resembles sand and smells toasty (but not burnt). Whisk in the stock, a little at a time at first and then in big glugs once you’re confident that it’s thickening up smoothly. Simmer for about 10 minutes and throw in the shrooms. Simmer for another 10 minutes, until it’s nice and thick. Set aside until meat is rested. Season with salt and pepper and swirl in the lovely crème fraiche; heat over medium heat until nice and warm.
- Slice pork loin. Place cooked rice (rice can be cooked hours ahead of time and just held at room temp) on a serving platter. Top with sliced pork and the shroomy crème fraiche veloute sauce. Garnish with fresh herbs if you have em (chives, parsley or marjoram would be nice).
Nutritional Breakdown for Roast Pork Loin with Crème Fraiche Veloute: About 575 calories and 12 grams of fat. Excellent source of protein and iron. Use brown rice for extra fiber!
Cost Breakdown for Roast Pork Loin for Crème Fraiche Veloute: About $3.50 a serving.
Verdict / In the Future: Adding plenty of salt and pepper (especially salt — way more than you think; douse it!)to the pork loin is absolutely essential. Garlic will up the flavor too. Nothing’s worse than insipid roasted meat, be fearless and aggressive in the salting (heavy) and searing (high, high heat) and you’ll be set.