Concombres à la crème

Cucumbers in cream

This simple starter is a French classic that may be prepared in all seasons. The key to success is good ingredients. In particular, use a high-quality, thick crème fraîche if you can find it, and if not use the best available sour cream. Heavy cream will not work as well.

For 2-4 people you will need two standard cucumbers or one French (European) one. If you’ve never encountered a French cucumber, they are up to twice the length of the American variety, and the skin is smoother. The taste is about the same.

Many recipes for concombres à la crème call for salting and draining the cucumbers ahead of time, but this is actually not necessary, or even desirable in my opinion. The trick is to slice the cukes and add the cream and other ingredients very shortly before serving, chilling for just a few moments. This will ensure that the cukes stay fresh.

1 French-style cucumber or two American-style cucumbers
4 tbsp. crème fraîche
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
a couple sprigs of fresh herbs: cilantro, dill, chives or chervil
small squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

Peel the cucumber(s). Cut crosswise into thin slices, about 1/10 inch (2 mm) wide.

Spoon the cream into a mixing bowl and stir to smooth. Add the cucumber slices. Stir. Add the salt and pepper, and snip in the herbs. Stir again. Taste. If you think it needs more zest, spritz on the lemon juice (I rarely do this, as I think it’s better without).

Place in the fridge to chill for 5-10 minutes. Bring to the table in a serving bowl or on individual plates. Serves 2 as a first course on its own, 4 as part of a starter spread.

For suggestions on other simple starters that marry well with cucumbers in cream, see the blog page on the subject.

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