December Reflections 23: New Recipe

I believe that I may be in a cooking rut.

I have racked my brains but not come up with a new dish, tried this year, that has now entered my repertoire.

There is this, that I made last week:

Celeriac “Dauphinois” with Truffled Brie

Born out of necessity to use up the end piece of a very runny Truffled Brie wedge, married to a desire to at least pay lip service to our supposed low-carb diet.

I had a Celeriac (Turnip-Rooted Celery, to some, Céleri to the French) hanging around and I always keep in plenty of what passes for cream in France.

Recipe? Not really! On the matter of Pommes Dauphinoise, I take my cue from Michel Roux Jr, rather than from the trusted Felicity Cloake, from whose page I staggered over to Roux’s.

I based this dish on the potato version. As I was adding the truffled cheese to the dish, I thought it best to skip the garlic and not throw too many flavours in there. I did add some Thyme as an afterthought, because I imagined that it would taste good with the Celeriac and the Truffle. It did.

To the best of my memory I:

  • greased the dish with olive oil;
  • peeled the celeriac and sliced it thinly by hand – I thought the Magimix might slice it too thinly. It works well with potatoes but my instinct was that the celeriac might cook down to much if it was cut very thin;
  • layered the celeriac in the dish with seasoning, some lumps of the cheese, and a light sprinkle of dried Thyme (fresh would be best but I had none) between each layer of vegetable.
  • poured a load of the cream over the top. Well, more deposited than poured;
  • whacked it on the oven at 180°C and it cooked in a little over half an hour.

It was rich and delicious and I believe that leaving out the garlic was a good call. The Thyme worked well.

We ate it with a Toulouse sausage each. It needed a plain and simple green salad.

On the subject of Cream. It has been an unpleasant surprise to find that ordinary fresh cream is largely unavailable in France. Reading of small print has become essential in order to avoid UHT products and “cream” that is thickened with any one of a number of additives.

Crème Fraîche is of course a fabulous thing, though oddly, the French version of Crème Fraîche differs significantly from the product sold in the UK – at least to my taste buds.. The cream is thickened and soured by lactic ferments, in consistency is reminiscent of Clotted Cream but it is sharp in flavour. Lovely on Strawberries or peaches, I must say. But not everything benefits from the tartness of Crème Fraîche and sometimes I need something else.

I keep a couple of these handy in my ‘fridge. This is not UHT but has quite a good shelf life. It does have lactic ferments but the result is not too tart, and it doesn’t have additives, thickeners or emulsifiers.

It’s the best Cream option that I have found to date and I use it a lot in my cooking. This is what I added to my “Dauphinois”.

Is it worth mentioning that the French don’t appear to do Sour Cream and that Crème Fraîche is actually a poor substitute for that, in my opinion?

Also, the French don’t do a proper Fresh Whipping Cream. Aerosol Chantilly products are terrible, far too sweet, UHT, and usually contain emulsifiers. Nasty. It appears that the French housewife usually favours a product that is a mix of Cream and Mascarpone when she wishes to whip. I have investigated and again found that these are largely UHT.

Who would have dreamed that France, the Dairy Capital of my dreams, doesn’t do dairy unless it’s Fromage or Beurre (both of which they do incredibly well, so we may have to let them off this creamy hook.)

I can get real fresh cream from Grand Frais but that’s a bit of an expedition so it’s Special Occasions Only. There is a real fresh Cream originating fairly locally, somewhere in the Limousin, I find it sometimes but can’t rely on it being on a local shelf, unfortunately. It’s very good but a bit thin for whipping.

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