Creams and Crèmes

Sometimes the non-standardization of food and even food names can be confusing for home cooks. Scallions are green onions. Coriander is cilantro. Portobellos are cremini, or basic brown mushrooms, just grown to a larger size. And not all sour creams are the same. When made naturally, it tastes more like a rich, delicate yogurt, yet when artificially thickened and soured has more in common with the ingredients and texture of pudding.

Sour cream is traditionally made using bacterial culture, which builds up a surplus of lactic acid, both souring and setting the cream. But according to the government of Canada’s food and drug regulations (C.R.C., c. 870) a Canadian sour cream product can contain “the following emulsifying, gelling, stabilizing, and thickening agents: (A) algin, carob bean gum (locust bean gum), carrageenan, gelatin, guar gum, pectin or propylene glycol alginate or any combination thereof in an amount not exceeding 0.5 per cent, (B) monoglycerides, mono- and diglycerides, or any combination thereof, in an amount not exceeding 0.3 per cent, and (C) sodium phosphate dibasic in an amount not exceeding 0.05 per cent.”

Which is why many types of commercially available sour creams don’t have the dainty and light texture that comes out of the bacterial process. Theirs are a heavier hand, with artificially induced thickening that doesn’t feel or taste quite as decadent as the older process. For our stroganoff, we looked for the sour cream with the fewest ingredients which was soured naturally with no thickeners.

Mushroom Stroganoff

300 g extra wide egg noodles
¼ stick unsalted butter (around 30 g)
300 g mix of white, cremini, and shiitake Mushrooms, sliced thin
5 mg salt
8-10 green onions, sliced diagonally – separate the green tops from the white base
15 mg all-purpose flour
500 ml beef broth*
250 ml sour cream
75 g goat cheese
50 ml red wine for deglazing
Ground black pepper to taste
*can be vegetarian if you switch out the beef broth with mushroom broth. I don’t recommend using a vegetable broth as it’s not rich enough.
Chop your green onions and mushrooms. Keep the white part of green onions separate.
Start the water boiling for your egg noodles. Immerse the noodles when you’re almost finished making the sauce, so they’ll be piping hot but not dried out when it’s time to add them to the sauce. Salt your water once it reaches a rolling boil, around 2 teaspoons.

Melt half of the butter in a 10 inch saute pan over medium-high heat.
Once butter is melted, turn heat up to high, add half the mushrooms and sprinkle with ½ the salt. Cook down the mushrooms until they’re browned and reduced by about half the volume, stirring often. Set aside in a bowl.
Repeat steps 3-4 with the remaining butter, mushrooms, salt and the white parts of the green onions.
When reduced, add the first batch of mushrooms to the pan, and sprinkle the flour on top, stirring well until the flour disappears and the bottom of the pan is sticky and brown. Do not overcook at this stage, it’s easy to scorch!
Deglaze your pan with the red wine first, then add the broth. Bring to a strong simmer then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes to reduce the amount of liquid. Stir often.
This is a good time to add those noodles to your now boiling and salted water.
And back to the sauce. Add the sour cream, goat cheese and paprika and stir well.
Bring to a very slow simmer and cover. Cook for a few minutes to set all of the ingredients.
When the egg noodles are “al dente” (not overcooked, still have a bit of strength to the noodle) lift them out of their boiling water with a slotted spoon and stir directly into the finished sauce.
Place the sauced noodles in a big bowl, garnish with onion tops and ground pepper. Enjoy!

Crème Fraîche

Homemade crème fraîche is a wonderful “secret weapon” in any cook’s arsenal. It’s so simple to make, yet many people don’t know how. The bacterial action that thickens and sours the heavy cream comes from the addition of buttermilk.
15 ml Buttermilk (1 Tbsp)
250 ml heavy cream (1 cup)
Add both ingredients to a mason jar (you can double and even triple this recipe. Just keep the ratio of ingredients the same). Put the lid on the jar and shake to mix thoroughly.
Set on the counter in a warm (but not hot) kitchen, out of the sun, and leave for a minimum of 12 hours, usually closer to 24.
Shake every few hours to stir, and when the creme has thickened to the desired consistency, refrigerate. Will keep for around 10 days.
This delightful mixture can be subbed-in for any recipe which calls for sour cream or plain yogurt. It can be whipped and added to desserts as a tangier cousin to regular whipped cream. It’s a lovely crepe filling, especially with fresh fruits like strawberries. If left to get a bit firmer, it can be used on smoked salmon or trout canapes with dill.
You can also add it where you’d normally use butter or milk, like mashed or baked potatoes, or even a potato salad or chip dip.
Finally crème fraîche adds zip to any fall soups, like tomato, squash or pumpkin soup. Just add a dollop before serving!
Pictured: a strawberry and blackberry fruit salad with sugared balsamic vinegar dressing, topped with an unwhipped crème fraîche.

A very big thank you to our sour cream, heavy cream, and buttermilk sponsor, Purity Dairy.

About Laura Weatherbie

Laura is responsible for the ‘serious’ stuff that goes into publishing, like the money, printing, distribution, policies, YAWN…. Coincidentally, she’s also responsible for any random margin scribbles, scowls, and general gruffness around the Salty environs. Underneath it all though, she’s an affable character with a dry wit, a few West Coast Swing skills, and a cool grey convertible.

View All Posts