creme fraicheI’m a pasta hound.  I don’t easily get bored of repetitious food, and I could probably happily eat pasta 5 days a week.  But last night I had a hankering for pasta redux.  I just wanted spirals cooked al dente, with a dollop of crème fraîche, a touch of salt and pepper, and maybe (just maybe) a sprinkling of cheese.  The problem?  I had no crème fraîche.

There is much I miss about France, but I think crème fraîche tops the list.  For those who are unfamiliar with it, it’s like sour cream but with a much mellower, subtler taste.  The French use it everywhere – salads, salad dressings, sauces, pasta, dessert, seafood, you name it, it’s probably used.  It doesn’t curdle, unless it’s low-fat, and who wants the low-fat version of crème fraîche anyway?  And it’s tasty, and smooth, and lovely to have.  Crème fraîche is as much a dairy-aisle staple as butter and yoghurt.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been a part of English cuisine until only recently, with the burgeoning accessibility of international foods.  That means if you inhabit an English-speaking country, it’s likely you’d only find it in specialty stores or really big supermarkets, and last I checked in Toronto the prices were off the charts.  If you live in Central Boonfudge, New Zealand, the chances of adding it to your grocery list are exactly nil.

You can improvise or even make it yourself, by mixing amounts of sour cream and/or buttermilk and cream.  But it is no substitute for the original.

Are there any foods you miss but can never get?  Anyone use crème fraîche in their cooking?

– Jean AAR