Romancing the Ingredients

Thanksgiving is getting very real, People!  Or at least People of the United States!  There’s a feast of food and family ahead, and planning must happen!

I should be pumping out words for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but Thanksgiving can no longer be ignored.

Our plans are up in the air.  We have two possible locations (home or at a beloved relative’s house) and I haven’t committed to a protein yet.  For years, I did a port-glazed goose, and it was well-received.  Better than well-received.  Moaned-over – in a good way.  Then, three years ago, a family member complained (the nerve!) that we shouldn’t do goose again because there were no leftovers!

That, in fact, was the point: a succulent feast-protein with nothing annoying to pack up shortly after one is happily stuffed; no nasty dry left overs to face for days after The Day.

One of us will not eat the nationally worshipped Thanksgiving protein, turkey.

I’m jiggy with another poultry, although she-who-will-not-eat-turkey also will not eat duck.  Another contender is a baked salmon.  I make a really good baked salmon.  Really.  My kids call it “Fish Heaven.”  So that.  Or, or, I am flirting with a sole in white wine, lemon and butter sauce.  Must look up a good recipe – or twenty – to ignore.

So, protein to be determined.

And, just as I am thinking of all the elements of a good feast, the nagging thought that I really should be writing intrudes.

Those who raise the issue of “balance,” shall be exiled.  Go.  Away.  (But if you are a reader here, come back!  Just kidding!)

One element of Thanksgiving is non-negotiable for my immediate family: homemade crème fraîche.

Crème fraîche is a sour cream-like concoction, a cultured heavy cream.  If it’s done right, it’s thicker than pouring cream and a little bit thinner than traditional American sour cream.  It’s not hard to make; it just takes time.

Martha Stewart, in her seminal work, Entertaining, lists only two ingredients: heavy cream and buttermilk.  The second year that I made crème fraîche, it didn’t firm up in the refrigerator overnight.  Scarred by that experience, I modified the recipe and have ever after added a dollop of whole-milk yogurt.  Purists might be horrified, but adding culture is adding culture.

Therefore, henceforth, let crème fraîche be made as follows:

In a hinged mason jar, pour ~

2 cups of pure heavy cream that is NOT ultra-pasteurized, nor has any other ingredients (I used the Meadowbrook Farm brand in the glass bottle)

¼ cup of cultured buttermilk (I used the Friendship brand)

1/8 cup of whole milk, Greek-style yogurt (I used Fagé)

• Mix the ingredients well (I use a fork).  Leave the hinged lid ajar (there’s a joke to be made here about a lid being a jar; go ahead – knock yourself out. Then, send it to me).  The friendly bacteria that will firm up the cream needs air to grow.

• Next, place the jar in a room temperature place for 6-12 hours (typically, overnight).  Room temperature is warmer than a space in which you need two sweaters to survive.  It is cooler than a space in which you can only survive, sweat-laden despite multiple floor or ceiling fans, wearing a tank top and shorts.  Depending on your metabolism.  That is to say, between about 72 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

• After the 6-12 hours, hinge the jar shut and place it in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours (24 is better) before using.

In years gone by, I’ve made a sweet potato potage into which, at serving time, I swirl some of the crème fraîche and, for the grown ups, a swirl of port.  Salt for all.

On the other hand, with NaNoWriMo and National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) upon me, crème fraîche may be plopped upon salmon or yams or some-such.  With salt.  All good.

Compromises must be made.  But not for my Love U heroine.  She’s a young woman of principle.  She hasn’t had to compromise much, yet.  All she demands is that I get back to putting words to her story.

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