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Cream can add something special to bland foods

When cream’s involved – we’re talking ultimate comfort foods.

But there’s more to cream. There’s a reason the word is synonymous with the best – you know it’s delicious. Think crème de la crème. Cream’s the pinnacle, taking your vegetables to the top – of taste.

Creams vary according to fat content, so it’s essential to know the difference when a recipe calls for it. Light cream, single cream, table cream, or coffee cream has a low butterfat content and cannot be whipped or boiled. Half and half, a mixture of cream and milk, can’t be whipped but can be used as a sauce when flour is added. Premium whipping cream, heavy cream, or double cream can be whipped and boiled in sauces. With higher butterfat content, these creams are thicker and whip better than regular.

Sour cream is made by adding a bacterial culture to cream and allowing lactose, the milk sugar, to convert to lactic acid. Sour cream cannot be boiled and is prone to curdle with excessive heat.

Then there’s Crème Fraiche, which means fresh cream in French. A cultured cream, like sour cream it’s been soured with a bacterial culture. Unlike sour cream, Crème Fraiche can be whipped and boiled in sauces to thicken them.

Cooking with milk versus real cream is like using water instead of broth. You’ll get a less tasty, watered-down version. Enjoy today’s creamy comfort – infused side dishes.  I also included a sauce for meats.

Cream’s the cat’s meow. Don’t scrimp here.    

FLAMBE MUSHROOMS IN CREAM

2 sticks salted butter

1 Tbsp. chopped shallots

3 lbs. mushrooms

¼ cup sherry

2 oz. brandy

1 cup heavy cream

Chopped fresh parsley

In a heavy saucepan, melt butter. Add shallots. Cover pan and cook until shallots begin to brown. Remove stems of mushrooms and clean. Add mushrooms to butter and cook 8 minutes uncovered, occasionally stirring. Add sherry and brandy. Flame the brandy. When it stops burning, stir in cream. Cook 20 more minutes while stirring until thick. When serving, sprinkle with parsley. Serve alongside beef.

NEW POTATOES IN CREAM SAUCE

4 cups cooked, small new potatoes

Cream Sauce

2 Tbsp. salted butter

1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp salt

1 ¼ cups cream

Cook potatoes, cool, and set aside. In a saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour until it makes a paste. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Add cream a little at a time while stirring until smooth and thickened with each addition. Add more or less cream depending upon the thickness you desire. Yield: 1 ½ cups.

CREAMED SPINACH

1 Tbsp. melted, salted butter

2 lbs. cleaned, trimmed fresh spinach

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of grated nutmeg

Pinch of granulated sugar

1 tsp. all-purpose flour

1/3 cup cream

1 Tbsp. salted butter

In a saucepan, melt butter. Add spinach and cook over medium for 5 minutes while stirring. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, and sugar. Sprinkle spinach with flour and mix well. Cook for 3 minutes while stirring. Stir in cream. Bring to a boil while stirring. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Cut butter in small pieces and add to spinach. Stir until butter is melted.

CREAMY LEEK AU GRATIN

2 Tbsp. melted, salted butter

8 medium, diced 1-inch, leeks

¾ tsp. sea salt

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

1 ¼ cups heavy creamy

1 Tbsp. melted butter

1 cup panko bread crumbs

½ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

In a skillet, melt butter. Add leeks, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Cook while covered, occasionally stirring for 10 minutes until tender. Transfer to a butter greased baking dish. Pour cream over the top. In a mixer bowl, combine melted butter, panko crumbs, cheese, and pepper. Mix well. Sprinkle crumbs over top of leeks. Bake in a 450-degree oven for 20 minutes or until bubbly and brown.

CREAM STYLE CORN

12 ears, cut off cob, sweet corn

¼ cup salted butter

¼ cup bacon drippings

2 Tbsp. sugar

¾ Tbsp. salt

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 cup half and half

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

In a pot, combine corn off cob, butter, bacon drippings, sugar, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes while stirring with a wooden spoon Stir in half in half and flour. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes or longer until thick enough. If too thick, add water.

CREAMED GARLIC CHEESE POTATOES

3 ½ lbs. peeled, quartered russet potatoes

4 peeled garlic cloves

3 oz. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2/3 cup sour cream

½ stick salted butter

In a pot, boil potatoes and garlic in water for 25 minutes or until tender. Drain. Reserve cooking liquid if necessary to moisten.  Add Parmesan cheese and sour cream to drained hot potatoes and garlic and mash. Cream with a hand mixer.  Season with salt and pepper. I sometimes use Yukon Gold potatoes.

CUCUMBERS IN SOUR CREAM

4 cucumbers

Salt

1 cup sour cream

1 Tbsp. white vinegar

3 Tbsp. sugar

1 chopped onion

Freshly ground black pepper

Peel cucumbers and slice thin. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Drain juice from cucumbers by placing a weighted saucer on top and leaving it for several hours. Pour off juice. For dressing, combine sour cream, vinegar, and sugar. Pepper to taste. Pour over cucumbers and blend.

OLD IRISH POTATOES

3 peeled, boiled, cold, sliced russet potatoes

2 Tbsp. salted butter

1 cup cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In an ovenproof skillet, melt butter. Add the cream and season with salt and pepper. Increase heat and bring cream almost to a simmer. Add potatoes to skillet. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 20-30 or more minutes until brown on top.

CREAMY ASPARAGUS CASSEROLE

30 oz. drained extra-long asparagus spears

4 sliced, hard-boiled eggs

¼ cup slivered almonds

3 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 cup cream

¼ tsp white pepper

½ tsp. salt

In a butter greased casserole dish, layer asparagus and a layer of sliced eggs. Set aside. In a saucepan, melt butter. Add flour and stir until paste forms. Slowly add cream a little at a time and stir until smooth and thickened. Add pepper and salt. Pour the cream sauce over the asparagus. Top with toasted slivered almonds. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes or until heated.

CREAM GRAVY FOR MEAT

¾ lb. diced salt pork

4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

2 cups cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut pork into slices and dice. In a skillet, cook pork until brown and crisp. Remove pork and set aside. Reserve 4 Tbsp. of the fat. Add flour to the fat. Blend well to make a paste. Add cream a little at a time while stirring with each addition until smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the pork.