Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Two Faces of Creme Fraiche

I consider myself an adventurous cook, but, for some reason, my escapades never lead me to creme fraiche... Until this week when I came across Molly Wizenberg's column in the June issue of Bon Appetit where she describes a very simple way to roast salmon by slathering it with creme fraiche and then popping it in the oven for a few minutes. (Sidecar - I discovered Molly's blog, Orangette, a few months ago, became thoroughly hooked and then devoured her recent book, A Homemade Life. Not only are her recipes easy to follow and delicious, but she's nearly as crazy as I am about banana bread. OK, back to the story.)

I thought the whole creme fraiche approach sounded a little strange until I remembered back to an impromtu dinner party at our good friends' apartment almost 10 years ago - yikes! I can't believe there's 10 years of my adult life to consider. My friends covered salmon in mayonnaise and then baked it. Not only was the salmon moist, but it had just the teensiest hint of tang. Molly promised that tang as well so I added some of the fresh chives I professed my love for on Friday and a squeeze of lemon to the mix and, um, it was delicious. It was so good that after we finished dinner and my husband and daughter had left the kitchen, I turned back to the baking dish like a kid to brownie batter and started gobbling up the leftover creme fraiche and chive sauce, salmon bits and all. I couldn't stop myself so I decided I better nix the roast chicken for Sunday night and make a baked chicken with, you guessed it, creme fraiche and chives. Get a load of Molly's recipe with a couple tweaks and my new and seriously addictive baked chicken recipe. Enjoy!

Roast Salmon with Creme Fraiche and Chives
(Adapted from Molly Wizenberg's Roasted Salmon with Creme Fraiche from Bon Appetit)

Preheat the oven to 425 and line a cookie sheet or roasting pan with foil. Wash and pat dry two quarter pound fillets of wild salmon (or more depending how many you're cooking for, but plan on a quarter pound of fish per person) and place them in the pan skin side down. Sprinkle the fillets with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together a small container of creme fraiche, a big handful of fresh chopped scallions and generous squeeze of lemon. With a spatula slather the salmon with about a quarter of the creme fraiche mixture (you'll have plenty left over to make the chicken recipe below) and pop it in the oven for 12-15 minutes. You'll know it's done when the salmon is firm yet slightly springy to the touch.

To accompany the salmon, I decided to stay on track with chives. I steamed some red skinned potatoes, drained them and popped them right back in the pot with a big pat of butter, salt, pepper and a healthy handful of chopped chives. I put the lid back on and shook it all about until the butter was melted and the potatoes and chives had a buttery smashed look to them. This is a delicious way to eat potatoes with any kind of fresh herb.

Last but not least, I sprinkled some lovely baby lettuces with a dressing of equal parts lemon and olive oil, mixed it up and then topped the greens with lovely lilac chive flowers. Look how beautiful these flowers are.

Approximate Dinner Cost
• W/Wine - $28.00
• W/o Wine - $13.00 at $4.30 for each of us
• Leftovers – Nada! Baby girl ate so much salmon, next time I'm getting her her own piece.

Chicken with Creme Fraiche, Chives, Asparagus & Mushrooms
Inspired by Wizenberg's salmon, I invented this symphony of all things Spring with the leftover cream fraiche and chive mixture. Honestly, I can't tell you which recipe I prefer. They both turned out so dang good.

Preheat the oven to 400. Buy a chicken that's been cut into pieces or, if you have the stomach, butcher it down to its breasts, thighs and legs. Keep a freezer bag on hand so you can freeze the backbone and wings for making stock another time. Set the chicken aside and place a large frying pan over a medium high heat. Add a splash of olive oil to the pan and add a chopped medium onion. Then clean a bunch of asparagus, snap off their woody ends and cut the stems into 2 inch long pieces. Add them to the pan and stir around. Finally, clean about a pound of baby portobello mushrooms (I wash them with water, so uncheflike), break off their stumps and chop up the caps. Add them to the asparagus onion mixture. Cook until the veggies have shed their water and are firm edging toward soft - steer clear of mushy. Season with a bit of salt and pepper.

On another burner, place a dutch oven or even a roasting pan (something that can be moved from burner to oven) over a high heat, sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and add them to the dutch oven skin side down. Cook until the skin is brown and crispy and the fat has been rendered. Remove the chicken from the pan and pour out most of the chicken fat. Return the chicken to the dutch oven and scatter the cooked vegetables over and around the chicken. Finally, get out that leftover creme fraiche mixture from the day before or make a new batch if you're not having a weekend of obsessive CF gluttony and pour evenly over the chicken and vegetables. Spread it with a spatula and pop the whole thing uncovered into the oven for about 30 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in a breast reads 180 (some people go as low as 165, but I'm an avid devotee of my digital thermometer which says poultry should be 180).

True to my dearly beloved chives, I served the same steamed potatoes and baby lettuces and I even scattered some chive flowers on the chicken for a fresh burst of chivey goodness. Bon Appetit!

Approximate Dinner Cost
• W/Wine - $28.00
• W/o Wine - $15.00
• Leftovers – At 6 servings, that’s just $2.50 each!


  1. Can you make your own creme fraiche? or would you recommend a good brand? This looks so yummy, and it could be a good recipe for a lonesome single(ish) lady like me!

  2. Vermont Butter and Cheese and Ronnybrook Farms are great brands to look for on the East coast.

    However, creme fraiche is super duper easy to make as well according to Alice Waters. She says to get a clean glass jar and add 1 tablespoon of cultured buttermilk to 1 cup of heavy cream (make sure it isn't ultra pasteurized). Cover the jar loosely and let it sit out over night in a cool dry place. It will last for up to 10 days in the fridge.

    It's a great recipe when you want something tasty for very little work in very little time. Perfect for single-ish dinners;)

  3. I've never used creme fraiche, but I often do a mixture of mustard & mayonnaise (2:1 ratio), with lots of dill and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Simple and delicious.

  4. Wow, that sounds delish too. Might just have to add that to my repertoire. Thanks for sharing, Andreas!

  5. I have such a love affair with creme fraiche - thank you for this! I've taken to mixing it into soups, where it adds a great fatty layer of flavor.



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