Get Down With Brown

My shopping philosophy is pretty simple, and it’s served me pretty well.

The higher the quality the higher the price.  So, buy the best quality you can afford, at the best price you can.

But there’s an exception to this theory: butter—but butter in a particular state.Growing up, at our house, we always ate margarine.  The only time I ate butter was when we visited family in either Pennsylvania, on my grandmother’s delicious homemade potato bread, or in New Jersey on a freshly baked breakfast roll.

Because of this, in addition to being way tastier than Parkay, I also associate butter which childhood and indulgence.  So, when I began stocking my own larder, it was butter, not margarine which had a place of pride in fridge, table, and belly.I don’t remember when I discovered the wonder that is brown butter.  But, it was the luckiest kitchen mishap ever.  I was melting butter for a veggie side dish, and my attention strayed.  Soon I smelled this amazing, nutty, buttery aroma.  By the time I returned to the stove, the light golden color of melted butter had deepened to a rich caramel.

Normally I would just utter a few rude oaths to my ineptitude, pour it down the disposal and start again.  But this stuff just smelled and looked too darn good.  And it tasted even better.

After that, I began experimenting.  At first, I used it like a flavoring.  I mixed it into Velveeta Shells and Cheese.  It tasted so good, I almost forgot that the resulting dish had enough fat and calories to kill an elephant.

You know, I don’t feel quite so guilty about the brown butter mac.  But Petey would happily eat this abomination seven days a week.

When I decided I wanted to live past my thirties, I cut back on the double fat mac, and began substituting it for regular butter; both in melted form, and solid (like for baking).

Brown Butter

Butter

Melt butter on medium-low in a shallow saucepan or skillet.  Once melted, let it continue cooking, watching it constantly.  It will start to foam, and then brown.  As it browns, swirl the pan to monitor the color.  The darker it is, the more pronounced the flavor, but burned it is inedible.  When the butter solids are the color of dark brown sugar, take it off the heat.To use as solid butter, let it cool slowly, stirring frequently to keep the browned solids suspended throughout.

One of our favorite things on which to pour melted brown butter is steamed cauliflower.  The nutty flavor works beautifully with the slightly bitter veg.  Lately, I’ve been using it as a sauce for simple pasta dishes.  It enhances the taste without covering delicate flavor.

Have the butter browned and waiting in a skillet when the pasta is ready.  Then just spoon the finished noodles or ravioli into the butter and toss.  Ravioli with a mild-flavored filling is made for brown butter.  For a sauce with more complex flavor, add the juice of a lemon and a handful of grated parmesan.  It’s a delicious, sophisticated sauce for fish and poultry.And this brings us back to where we began.

Although expensive European higher fat, lower water content butter is delicious (heck, I have a box of Kerry Gold from Ireland in my fridge right now), it isn’t the best pick for browning.

What browns in butter are the milk solids, and as you move up the price and quality scale, the amount of solids drop.  So, the cheaper and less clarified butter makes the best brown butter.

Would that it worked that way for shoes.shoe collageThanks for your time.

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