Not sure what creme fraiche is or why you should care?

Consider it a relative of sour cream. Except creme fraiche is the richer, sexier and more talented relative.

Like yogurt, sour cream and creme fraiche are dairy products produced thanks to the miracle of friendly bacteria. But while yogurt is made by adding those bacteria to milk, sour cream and creme fraiche are made with cream.

Sour cream is made from cream that is 20 percent fat; creme fraiche sports an even more succulent 30 percent. That may not sound like a big difference, but it matters in both taste and versatility. That extra fat turns creme fraiche into a kitchen workhorse.

But first, taste. While sour cream tastes, well... sour, creme fraiche is rich and tart. And as a byproduct of the bacteria added to produce it, creme fraiche tends to make other foods taste buttery.

But unlike yogurt, creme fraiche isn't particularly acidic (so it's not great for marinades).

The higher fat content of creme fraiche means you can boil with abandon and it won't separate. This makes it ideal for soups, sauces and simmered dishes.

It will, however, melt. Adding cornstarch allows you to broil it without it liquefying. It's an easy and delicious substitute for the traditional roux-based sauce used in croque monsieur.

In France, where it originates, creme fraiche often is used in sauces for vegetables, salad dressings, soups and pastries, and to top fresh fruit.

Croque Monsieur


•1/2 cup creme fraiche

•1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

•1/4 cup grated cheddar

•1 tablespoon cornstarch

•1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

•1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

•1/2 teaspoon black pepper

•1/4 teaspoon salt

•Pinch nutmeg

•2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

•4 slices sandwich bread

•4 slices gruyere cheese

•8 slices smoked deli ham

•1 tablespoon butter, softened


Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix the creme fraiche, 1/4 cup of Parmesan, cheddar, cornstarch, garlic powder, hot sauce, pepper, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.

Spread mustard over each slice of bread. Top each with 1 slice of cheese and 2 slices of ham. Overturn 2 of the stacks onto the others to make 2 sandwiches. Spread butter over one side of each sandwich.

Arrange the sandwiches on a baking sheet, buttered side up, and bake for 5 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Set the oven to broil.

Flip the sandwiches and spoon half of the creme fraiche mixture over the top of each sandwich. Top with the remaining Parmesan.

Broil 1 to 2 minutes, or until cheese is melted and starts to brown.

Servings: 2