Of all the dairy products available at the grocery store, sour cream just might be the one that's the most underrated. Even I have pigeonholed it into a bowl next to homemade nachos. My consumption level of this thick, tangy cream might be quite high, but my creativity level until lately? Low as can be.
Thankfully, social distancing has gotten me more inventive with the basic ingredients in my fridge and pantry, and I'm looking at sour cream with a whole new set of eyes these days.
Because it has a decent fat content (unless you opt for low-fat) and is also quite acidic, sour cream offers a one-two punch of flavour when added to many types of dishes.
Here's how you can make the most of it in your day-to-day cooking.
One of the five mother sauces, bechamel is a simple mix of milk, butter and flour. This white sauce is the base of many delicious things, including mornay sauce and dishes like fettucine alfredo and mac and cheese. Swapping out some of the milk or cream for sour cream in bechamel will leave you with a sauce that has a little bit of zest.
Just make sure the sauce isn't simmering aggressively, otherwise you'll risk curdling the cream. Lower heat is best.
Biscuits and loaves
If you're lucky enough to be stocked up on flour--it was you who stole that last bag of all-purpose from me at the grocery last week, wasn't it?--then chances are, you're baking away the days and have a sourdough starter going. Sour cream works well when substituted (or partially substituted) for milk in simple recipes like biscuits, scones and loaves like banana bread.
Sour cream reacts with baking soda in a magical (technically scientific) way that results in a light, fluffy finished product.
Frittatas or scrambled eggs
A simple spoonful of sour cream beaten in with eggs or added to a frittata mixture will help balance out other rich ingredients that might be incorporated, like cheddar cheese, butter, and bacon.
A little goes a long way in this particular application, so I would not recommend swapping out cream or milk in your frittata recipe completely for sour cream.
In a somewhat similar vein to adding sour cream to a classic bechamel, cream-based soups can also benefit from a finishing of sour cream. Whether you add a dollop of it on top of a bowl of soup right before serving, or stir some into the pot of soup while it's still hot, but not simmering, the acidity while help cut through a soup's richness without compromising its viscosity.
Berry pies and tarts
Much like adding sour cream to cut richness, sour cream can also do the same for things that are notably sweet. Cooking is all about balance, after all.
Sweet berries (like blueberries or strawberries), once mixed with sugar and spices for a pie or tart filling, can also be mixed with some sour cream before it goes into the oven. This can also work with sweet apples, but not something tart like a Granny Smith.