Sunday, January 2, 2011

Creme Fraiche and a Slew of Resolutions

I spent New Year's morning lounging in bed and channel surfing. It wasn't that I had too much to drink (I didn't) or that I was delaying the start of 2011, but it was rainy and windy and cold outside and it certainly required a bit more motivation on my part. Anyhow, Food Network had all their shows centered around breakfast (by the way, I think that is fabulous thinking on their part) and of course, I wound up glued to Bobby Flay's take on the morning meal.

I'd like to point out here that I really do love breakfast--especially for dinner. But, I do have some weird quirks when it comes to what I like and what I don't. First off, I am not at all about pancakes or waffles, I don't care for donuts or sweet rolls or coffee cake (although, I wouldn't be opposed to those on a rare occasion at another time of day); when it comes to eggs, I like mine over medium and trust me when I tell you that that is an impossible request--people just can't cook an egg that way. I also like poached eggs--a lot--which means that I could easily be viewed as high maintenance when it comes to sliding into the local dinner.

There are things, too, that I adore about breakfast. Chiefly, potatoes--any way, any style, and with any added ingredients.  I also like sausage, but only sausage patties and those are fairly hard to find and I rarely order them. Usually, for me, breakfast out consists of an order of potatoes, dry sourdough toast and extra, extra sides of salsa with Tabasco. Then, while my dining companions are munching away on the normal fare, I concoct potato and salsa sandwiches.

Thankfully, we don't usually go out for breakfast, so I can eat whatever I want. Usually that means cereal and a banana or soy sausage and toast, but the whole Bobby Flay special made me do something that I don't ordinarily do for myself--cook breakfast. I roasted up some cubed parboiled potatoes that were hiding out in the vegetable bin, tossed in some onions and then, since everything that makes me happy usually involves spice, tomatoes, cilantro and corn tortillas, I threw a couple of corn tortillas in the oven to crisp up and then got to work on a quick salsa with onions, jalapenos, lime juice, tomatoes and salsa; I scrambled up some egg whites (I do love egg whites) and made some very interesting potato, egg, and salsa tostados, and while the first bite was delicious, there was just something missing--something tangy and cooling.

I don't buy sour cream because I personally think it's flat and artificial and over-processed, but I do buy plain, whole milk European style yogurt (not Greek) and I pretty much use that for everything from recipes to topping soups, to eating plain with honey and granola. And that's what I was rummaging for in the fridge when way back in the very back, I spied my old blue Bell canning jar and that could only mean one thing--Creme Fraiche.

You can buy creme fraiche at a big box grocery store, but it's over priced and over processed, which means that you're paying out a lot of do-re-me for what tastes just like the store brand of sour cream. Really good creme fraiche is easy to make. Most recipes call for heating raw or lightly pasteurized heavy cream and then adding a bit of buttermilk and letting it set, at room temperature, until it thickens. I do mine a bit differently. I pour heavy cream into my jar, add a spoonful of yogurt and a splash of champagne vinegar, cover it, and let it set on the counter for a few days until it's super thick and tangy.

I was shocked to come across a bit of leftover creme fraiche, since I don't usually keep it around; I do make it for special occasions and the last one was early on in December when I baked up a massive chocolate bread pudding for a party (creme fraiche, believe it or not, cuts down on the richness of a dish, but also adds to its complexity). My 'found' treasure was the perfect counterpoint to my first breakfast of the New Year and while I chomped away, I mulled over my 'resolutions' for the upcoming year; here are a few that I will share:

1. Blog on a regular, not seasonal, basis.
2. Learn how to make buttercream roses (and decorate some cakes along the way).
3. Go--on a weekly basis--to the local farmers market. I want to eat locally and seasonally and hey, these folks need my support to keep their farms running.
4. Teach myself, through practice, trial, error, and persistence to bake bread. I want to try my hand at working with a starter as it just fascinates me how long (in years) some folks have kept their starters rolling along; I also have selfish reasons--hello, Brioche!
5. I've been saying it for years, but I think this just might be the year I sign up for the Big Sur Half-Marathon. Maybe.
6. Oh, and I'm going to make creme fraiche more often--that stuff is good!

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