Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Crème Fraîche Dressing

Did you ever have something you make or cook so regularly that you've forgotten that there was ever a recipe for it? I admittedly have more than a few of those, but today as I was making my "house" salad dressing to doll up some cooked golden beets and baby spinach when I realized that some of you might find this a handy trick.

My family seemed to have an unusual fondness for salads that had both raw and cooked vegetables in them. We called them composed salads, just to fancify the whole thing. I think it really was my mother's way of recycling leftover vegetables so they didn't get tossed. Especially if there wasn't enough left to actually be reheated and served again. My frugal Depression-Era parent strikes again. I do the same thing. I had a cooked beet, some roasted cauliflower left from two nights ago, plus some baby spinach, red onion and olives lurking at the back of the fridge. As I went for the oil and vinegar,  I remembered I had just seen a jar of my famous homemade crème fraîche next to those lurking olives.  And I decided to make my favorite dressing.

About a million years ago, there used to be a  restaurant near school that specialized in crepes. As a genuine Francophile, and a poor college student, my weekly treat was often their $5 lunch which was generally a crepe filled with whatever filling that wasn't selling that week and a salad. I adored the salad dressing; it was creamy without being gloppy like the Russian, French and Ranch dressings in the cafeteria at school. After about my 6th visit I was finally brave enough to ask the waitress what the dressing was, and when she told me it was a cream dressing, it meant absolutely nothing to me. When I asked what that was, she brought the hostess, the chef's wife, who kindly explained how they made it. I've been making variations on it ever since. It's still fabulous. Not diety, fabulous. Delicious. Got it?

Cream dressing, often called a cream vinaigrette, is nothing more than heavy cream and an acid, like lemon juice or vinegar. Real sour cream works in place of the cream, or my favorite, crème fraîche. Salt and pepper are the only other constants and everything else is up to the cook. My current version uses homemade crème fraîche, and homemade herb vinegar. A tiny dab of Dijon mustard isn't out of place with a sweet vegetable in the salad like beets  or cooked carrots, but not essential.

Here's the basic recipe, feel free to extrapolate as you wish. I am going to just give you proportions, but if you want it sweeter, or sharper, add more or less cream, crème fraîche or vinegar. Wonderful on potatoes, eggs, beets, haricots or green beans, asparagus...anything, really.

Sorry, I was so hungry, I started to eat
before snapping a shot. My bad.

Crème Fraîche Dressing

3/4 cup homemade crème fraîche or heavy single pasteurized cream
1/4 cup herb vinegar, rice vinegar or sherry vinegar...or lemon juice
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

Optional: dab of Dijon, pinch of sugar, fresh herbs, pinch of minced garlic, chopped olives or pimentos, dab of anchovy paste...

Mix everything and let stand a few minutes to thicken. Add whatever optional ingredients that are appropriate for your salad.


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