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.
Chef Francis Mallmann, author of Mallmann on Fire, was raised in a house in Patagonia that was "ruled by fire." Now he is known for cooking with it.