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Cooking with cream--will it curdle?

I'm poaching salmon on a bed of sorrel with white wine. Can I add cream while it's cooking, or after, or will the wine make it curdle?

Would like to make this tonight and would apreciate advice. Thanks.

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  1. I would add the cream to the sauce just at the end and don't boil it.

    1. Yes the way I do anything creamy, get the other ingredients to the level of flavor you want then the cream is added and heated just through, don't boil or it will go South.

      3 Replies
      1. re: chef chicklet

        Naah, you can boil cream -- the miracle ingredient -- and it won't curdle or "go South." It will reduce and thicken up, though.

        1. re: ozhead

          Yep... Cooking the cream just thickens the sauce up. I always cook my cream sauces a bit, and never get curdling.

          Depending on what else is in the sauce, it may not reheat too well though.

          1. re: ozhead

            I agree. Cream doesn't curdle if boiled, it thickens as it cooks, reduces. I've never had this happen. It will "break" when reheated the next day, most likely.

        2. All these years...and its suitable for a sauce? I wonder what is the breaking point for mine then when its happened?

          1. Actually, this depends on what cream you're using and whether there is any acidity in the sauce.

            Whipping/heavy cream is not as likely to curdle even if you reach boiling point, since it has such a high fat content. If you try to go low-cal and sub anything under 35%, you will indeed get curdling once the cream boils, much like you would if you used milk... the less fat there is, the more prone to curdling the cream will be.

            Do be careful if you're adding an acid such as lemon juice or white wine - these will make the sauce more prone to curdling.

            2 Replies
            1. re: tartiflette

              Agreed on both points. If you're gonna cook with cream, cook with heavy cream -- the heaviest you can get. If you have a Trader Joe's nearby, they sell a very good heavy cream in pint (plastic) bottles, pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized, that's good for both cooking, whipping, and just sorta pouring onto stuff (fruit, cobbler, etc.) And though heavy cream won't break when boiled, it might do so in the presence of acids; thus you have to be careful not to use too much acid, or too strong an acid.

              By the way, coconut cream will not break when boiled either, even in the presence of acid. A great dish I encountered in Micronesia is Japanese eggplant, peeled and quartered, and stewed with thin-cut onions in coconut cream and lemon juice. Dynamite.

              1. re: tartiflette

                Ah ha, white wine is in there most of the time, the one I ruined was a seafood curry that is made with cream and white wine, and I curdled the sauce and we ate it anyway. Even though I had made this countless times, I remember that I heated it up to get it hot, and blew the sauce.

              2. Every time I added milk to sorrel (making sorrel soup) it curdled instantly. Sorrel is apparently very acidic, so I would think it would curdle cream, too.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Bat Guano

                  Maybe, maybe not. Heavy cream doesn't curdle easily. Here's a little more info: http://www.theeagle.com/stories/07040...

                  1. re: ozhead

                    I have added heavy cream to the sorrel/white wine base after the salmon is removed, and brought it just to the boil, with no curdling problems. It thickens nicely and makes a great sauce.

                2. "How does a high fat content permit the cook to boil a mixture of heavy cream and salty or acidic ingredients without curdling it, as when dissolving pan solids or thickening a sauce? The key seems to be the ability of the fat globule’s surface membrane to latch onto a certain amount of the major milk protein, casein, when milk is heated. If the fat globules account for 25% or more of the cream’s weight, then there’s a sufficient area of globule surface to take most of
                  the casein out of circulation, and no casein curds can form. At lower fat levels, there’s both a smaller globule surface area and a greater proportion of the caseincarrying water phase. Now the globule surfaces can only absorb a small fraction of the casein, and the rest bonds together and coagulates when heated. (This is why acid-curdled mascarpone cheese can be made from light cream, but not from heavy cream.)" -Harold McGee