Friday, April 29, 2016

Sour Cream, Creme Fraiche, and Mexican Crema

Here in America, sour cream is the most readily available type of "soured" cream. However, France has it's creme fraiche and Mexico it's crema. Creme fraiche and crema are virtually the same, thanks to European immigrants who migrated to Mexico. Although creme fraiche is delicious, I prefer crema, specifically the Salvadoran variety that has a rich buttery flavor. For years I have been spoiled with the ease of purchasing crema from my local Mexican grocer; but alas, they have closed their doors and my heart sank. 

So what's a girl to do? Go without crema? Impossible! After perusing my French and Mexican cookbooks, I decided to make my own. After all, good abuelas have been doing it for generations. Guess what? It is so simple! All you do is add a little buttermilk to heavy cream in a jar, stir, let sit in a warm spot for 12-24 hours, stir, refrigerate, and voila! It's actually quite amazing! You have to try it!

Homemade Mexican Crema/French Creme Fraiche

Makes approximately 1 cup

1 cup heavy cream
Buttermilk (use 1 tablespoon for creme fraiche, or 3 tablespoons for crema)
Pinch of salt (optional, but I like it better with salt.)

In a sterile jar (I use ones that I've run through the dishwasher), mix the heavy cream with the buttermilk and salt. Place the lid on lightly (it needs to breath) and place in a warm spot. (I set it in my sunny kitchen window.) Wait 12-24 hours until thickened to your liking. Stir and refrigerate until ready to use. Enjoy!
It's thick, rich, and delicious!!!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Easy Entertaining with Horsey Sauce

Horseradish is the spicy root of the Armoracia rusticana plant, a member of the mustard family. When peeled and grated, it releases a chemical similar to mustard oil, causing nasal irritation and a pleasant bitter taste. For centuries, it has been prized for its medicinal and gastronomic qualities. Early Greeks used it to relieve back pain and as an aphrodisiac. It has also been used to treat coughs, rheumatism, and tuberculosis. Native Americans used to apply freshly grated horseradish to cure headaches. 

During the Renaissance, horseradish consumption spread from Central Europe northward to Scandinavia and eventually to England. By the late 1600s, horseradish was the preferred condiment to beef and oysters by all Englishmen. It was also commonly used by inns and coach stations, who made cordials with it to revive weary travelers. It was brought to North America by early settlers in the colonies. By 1806, it was common in the northeast. Commercial cultivation in America began in the 1850s. Today, southwestern Illinois grows 85% of the world's horseradish! There is even an International Horseradish Festival in Collinsville, Illinois each June, complete with recipe contests, live music, and games such as root toss, root golf, and even a root stacking contest!

Horseradish and beef are best friends. They compliment each other beautifully. One of my favorite recipes starring this dynamic duo is from the Culinary Institute of America for "Grilled Steak Salad with Horseradish Dressing." This lovely main course salad is super simple, making it perfect for casual entertaining. I serve it with bread and a bottle of Merlot or red blend. Try it and I promise you will add to your regular dinner rotation! FYI: If you have any leftover dressing, it's great on sandwiches!

Grilled Steak Salad with Horseradish Dressing

Serves 6

For the Horseradish Dressing
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1-2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (Sold in the refrigerated section of your grocer.)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt (I use 1/4 teaspoon) and freshly ground black pepper (I use 1/8 teaspoon), to taste

For the Romaine and Blue Cheese Salad
6 cups romaine lettuce, washed and drained, cut into bite-size pieces
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2/3 cups crumbled blue cheese (I prefer Roquefort.)
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

For the Grilled Steak
1 1/2 pound flank steak
Drizzle of canola or olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream, mayonnaise, horseradish, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Can be made ahead, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Place the lettuce, tomatoes, and half the cheese in a salad bowl, sprinkle with lemon zest, and set aside. Can be assembled up to 2 hours, refrigerated before serving.

Preheat gas grill to medium-high. If you are using a charcoal grill, build a fire and let it burn down until the coals are glowing red with a coating of white ash. Spread the coals in an even bed. Clean the cooking grate.

Drizzle the steak with oil and rub to coat evenly. Season generously with salt and black pepper. Grill the steak to the desired doneness, approximately 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare.

While the steak is grilling, toss the salad with the horseradish dressing and place on a large platter or individual plates. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let rest 3 minutes. Carve the steak across the grain and at an angle into thin slices. Arrange the steak slices on the salad, top with the onion slices and the remaining cheese, and serve.

Thanks to for some of the facts in this post.