Tasting of hazelnuts with a hint of tang, creme fraiche is France's favorite form of cream for cooking. With more body and complex flavors than fresh sweet cream, creme fraiche is a thick, rich, custard of a cream. It thickens without curdling, a little goes a long way in fast pan sauces, and blended with fresh herbs and a dash of fresh lemon, creme fraiche is splendid over seafoods and poultry. Dollop it over fresh fruit, or whip and lightly sweeten to frost or fill cakes. This is a home version that comes close to the real thing.
To get even closer, order a creme fraiche culture from The New England Cheesemaking Supply Company and follow their directions.
Combine the buttermilk and cream in a saucepan and heat only to tepid (not more than 85 degrees on an instant reading thermometer). Pour into a clean glass jar. Partially cover and let stand at room temperature (between 65 and 75 degrees) for 8 to 24 hours, or until thickened. Stir and refrigerate at least 24 hours before using. The cream will keep about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
"What do I do in the middle of winter when I’m faced with eight different types of root vegetables and not much else?" says chef Lenny Russo of Heartland Restaurant and Wine Bar and author of a book by the same name.