A steak-lover’s guide to canapés (and homemade crème fraiche)

In the unlikely event you are left with extra steak from last night’s dinner, and you’ve managed to avoid devouring it the next morning on its own, there is the canapé: an assembly of delicious construction and nearly infinite variation. Your steak is cooked, and has been waiting in the fridge for this fate. All you have to do is set out your ingredients, and assemble these bite-sized works of edible folk art.

As I see it, the key components of the canapé are the vehicle, the driver, the passengers and the wrangler. I’ve used, respectively: the best sourdough baguette I could find—thank you Blackbird—carefully carved slices of last night’s ribeye, a host of flavourful accompaniments, and homemade crème fraiche.

Homemade creme fraiche made from 35% cream and starter culture

You can buy crème fraiche at better food stores, of course, but I use it often enough in sauces and just by itself that regenerating it from its own culture has become a weekly routine. To get your first batch going, buy unsalted, cultured organic buttermilk and put four table spoons in a litre-sized mason jar filled with 35% (or higher) cream, preferably organic, stir to combine and cover it with cheese cloth or muslin, twisting the mason ring to secure the cloth. Leave it out at room temperature for 24 hours. When it’s done, it should be thick to the point of being almost spreadable. If it’s not, leave it alone a few more hours (and up to a day longer), then cover it with a mason lid and refrigerate.

Do make sure the buttermilk is organic, and read the ingredients, to make sure there is nothing else there besides milk ingredients and bacterial culture. Conventional (non-organic) buttermilk is just not the same, and sometimes I fear it’s not really traditional buttermilk (which is the liquid left over from churning butter from cream, then cultured).

As you run low on your own crème fraiche, simply regrow it by putting four heaping tablespoons of what you have left in a new litre-sized mason jar filled with cream, and leave it out at room temperature, as above. A fresh batch lasts at least a week in the fridge without changing.

Crème fraiche wrangles textures and flavours together for your canapés like nothing else can. Rich and comforting, fresh-tasting and a little tangy. Spread some on thin slices of excellent sourdough baguette (chewy, crusty, nutty), nestle a neatly carved slice of steak upon it, layer with a little more crème fraiche, then your other ingredients, which will remain in place, deliciously bound.


From left to right (always wth steak and crème fraiche, and seasoned to taste):

1)  Old cheddar, pimento-stuffed olives, seedy mustard, pea shoots; 2) Camembert, capers, habanero pepper jelly, broccoli sprouts; 3) Halved, boiled quail egg, munster, scallions and a light dusting of smoked paprika; 4) Caper berries, pea shoots, quick-pickled onion slices in beet brine; 5) Base verde, sweet-pickled tomatoes, arugula shoots





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