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Friday, August 30, 2013

A Salad to Swoon For - French Cucumber Salad + Crème Fraîche

Today, I give you French Cucumber Salad...

French Cucumber Salad with Dill and Creme Fraiche, Photo: NK

better known as one of my absolute favorite fancy (but easy to make) salads. Whether you serve it as a luxe barbecue side, for a lovely ladies lunch, bridal or baby shower, this dish is as delicate as it is delectable. I've quiet literally observed guests tilting the serving bowl in mid air in an effort to scrape clean every last bit. Nothing makes me happier, by the way. 

I've been making French Cucumber Salad for quite a while now. Years ago, I enjoyed a version of it at a cute little Brooklyn Wine Bar called The Castello Plan. Thanks to crisp, chilled cucumbers, I found it refreshing and light (yet slightly creamy because of the creme fraiche). Bright notes of vinegar and an ever so slight sweetness from a pinch of sugar were brought together with dill, which imparted an herbaceous freshness. Once I got home, I scoured the internet until I found a recipe that appeared the most similar to the dish I'd just experienced. My search brought me to a wonderful food blog that I've been referring to ever since - It's called JintanManis.

Here's how it should look before you creme fraiche-it-up: 

Photo: NK
This salad is also a favorite of mine when I'm looking for something to bring to a party that is both simple, impressive, and make-ahead. I'll include instructions on how to make this portable. Here it is at a recent barbecue: 



If you're in the market for a Labor Day side dish, I'd certainly recommend French Cucumber Salad. It's really hard not to love. Here goes...

French Cucumber Salad with Dill and Creme Fraiche
Lightly adapted from JintanManis blog
Serves 6

Ingredients:

4 large cucumbers
12 ice cubes
Salt
1 large shallot  
1 tablespoon white vinegar (wine or distilled)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons freshly minced dill  + dill sprigs for garnish 
1/2 cup (4 ounces) crème fraiche

Method:  
1. Peel all the cucumbers leaving some thin strips of green skin. Cut them in half lengthwise and cut off and discard each of the ends. To de-seed cucumbers, drag a teaspoon down the length of the cucumber half (cut side up) until seeds are scraped out. Don’t be afraid to apply some pressure. Discard seeds. What you will be left with should look like a canoe shape. Slice the cucumbers very thinly until you have pile of little half-moons.  If you have a mandoline it will make things quicker!


2. Next, mix the sliced cucumbers with the ice cubes and add enough water to reach past the surface of the cucumbers.  Add 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt to the water. Mix together gently and allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. Drain very well.
 
3. Slice the shallot very thinly and add to the cucumber. Mix in the vinegar, sugar, pepper, dill, and another 1/2 teaspoon salt. Combine well. Allow the mixture to sit at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Stop here if you are making this in advance or bringing to a party.

4. A few minutes before serving, drain away all the juices. Stir in the crème fraiche or sour cream and toss very gently. You can add extra if you prefer it more creamy. Taste for seasonings and adjust if needed. To serve, spoon the salad into a shallow, pretty bowl and garnish with minced dill and dill sprigs.

Enjoy!

4 comments:

  1. Just want to know if there would be much difference if I left the skins on the cucumber? I imagine it might give a nice summery shot of greenery. Would it affect the consistency or flavour? Am trying this with a caramelised onion and gruyere tart with homemade onion bread so I thought the freshness of the salad might be a nice contrast!
    Helena

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    1. Hi there, Helena! Excellent question. I have not tried but my sense is probably not much difference. I would highly recommend that if you plan to leave the skin on that you opt for English Cucumbers aka seedless or hothouse. Their skin tends to be thinner and far more edible. Another good idea would be to leave thin stripes of green on regular cucumbers (yet remove most of the skin). That way you could have some color but none of the toughness or bitterness of waxed cucumber skin. This would be very nice paired with a caramelised onion tart! Enjoy, thanks for reading, and I hope this helps :)

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  2. Hi Sam-worked a treat. I used what they call "Lebanese" cukes down here is Oz as they're smaller and sweeter. I scored the sides with a fork and peeled them in sections leaving about 1cm or half an inch of skin all the way around for a nice decoration and contrast. I could've used more salt as I am a salt fiend but there were no complaints!
    Thanks for the recipe-I will definitely use this again. I garnished the salad with a few slices of tomato. The dill was wonderful with it! Very refreshing against the strong flavours of the onion and the gruyere cheese.
    Helena

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for popping in to give us the results! Sounds like you did a fantastic jobs and mini cukes is a super idea. We do have them here in the US too but I've seen them called Persian Cucumbers. Also, you mention scoring the sides with a fork, that is a great trick to make things prettier - I've done it before but maybe next time I make this salad I will try it here. Not to mention you also have my mouth watering for an onion and gruyere tart! Thank so much for sharing and reading. Happy weekend!

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