Using Fat in Food: The Cream Edition

One of the ways we add heft, flavor, and satisfaction to our food is with fat. Yes, fat! Don’t run away. For years, fat has been a threatening ingredient, one that people avoid. But, as any chef knows, meals get a lot of their flavor from fat. Imagine your quesadillas without cheese or your pad thai without peanuts. Or, don’t. These are not pretty thoughts. And so, we’re on a mission to show you how to use fat in your cooking with a def hand. See the whole series (including nuts, butter, cheese, and oils) here.

Cream might seem like the most heavy-handed way of adding fat to your foods. And in fact, cream can be overused: think gloppy fettucine alfredo. But, if you pour your cream judiciously, you’ll wind up with a rich and flavorful dish that’s still fresh and bright. Though there are a few types of cream to use, today we’re focusing on heavy cream, with a spoonful of sour cream on top.

**Your Guide to Cooking with Cream**

Creamy Salad Dressing

For most vinaigrettes, we drizzle olive oil into vinegar, or a mix of vinegar, mustard, and garlic. But oil doesn’t have to be the only fat used here. You can actually substitute cream for some of the oil in a vinaigrette to wind up with a more decadent drizzle for your greens. The dressing on our Crispy Chicken Chopped Salad uses buttermilk, but you could substitute cream to an even more delicious effect.

Creamy Sauces

Creamy pasta sauces are some of the best sauces out there. (No offense to tomato sauces.) One of our all-time favorites is pasta primavera. After sautéing some vegetables, we simply pour in heavy cream. On the heat, the cream reduces into a sauce in just a few minutes. Once you add fresh pasta to the skillet, you’ll find that the sauce coats each strand of spaghetti beautifully. But you don’t need the pasta. Cream also turns chicken, fennel, and tomatoes into a lusciously creamy dish of Chicken with Tomato, Fennel & Creamy Tarragon Sauce.

Creamy Soups

Much as in creamy pasta sauces, creamy soups need just a dash or two of cream to both thicken and enrich the broth. In our Corn & Vegetable Chowder, cream turns a sauté of corn and radishes into a bonafide, and yummy, soup. This is a place where you can add as little or as much cream as you’d like–it’s up to you how rich you’d like your soup to be.

Creamy Garnish

When using cream for garnish, the best–and most obvious option–is sour cream. That’s what we turn to for our fajitas, as well as for dishes like Mushroom Stroganoff that can use a bright and creamy topping. And hey–for dessert, there’s always whipped cream, too.