Whoa, brown butter, bam-ba-lam
I know it's something akin to politically incorrectness to talk about butter as much as I do. Especially if you and Mo'Nique could fight over the same Oscar gown. Nothin' against Mo'Nique. I think she's fab. I'm just sayin', neither of us have to worry about blowing over in a wind storm.
But butter. Oh, butter. There is no culinary equal. My palms start sweating if we're down to less than one full box in the fridge. Mr. Meat and Potatoes called me yesterday, asking if there was anything I needed from the store. "No," I said. "Wait. Formula." Pause for feeble attempt at restraint, and then, "And, butter."
I mean, we all know that cooking something in butter makes it infinitely better. Even the most staunch vegetable-hater usually can't resist a spear of asparagus if it's been sauteed in butter or drenched in buttery hollandaise sauce.
And darn it, they've gone and made butter BETTER. Yes, we've built a better butter. Enter: brown butter. The first time I tried brown butter, I wept. For my thighs. And the real tragedy here is, almost anything you could do with regular butter, you can do with brown butter, to even better results.
You can sautee in it, spread it on bread, mix it with marshmallows and Rice Krispies, pepper it with sage and pour it over fish. Really, the possibilities are endless. I'm crying again.
Let's just begin with the basics.
To brown butter, toss a stick of butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan and turn the heat to medium. If you get it too hot, you'll burn it and get black butter, which is also useful but really is a whole different product, with different uses. The butter will melt, get sort of foamy, then golden, and then it will start to brown. Stir continuously. When the browning happens, watch closely because the transition will happen quickly and if you're not vigilant it will burn. Again - black butter is not what we are going for here.
Brown butter smells nutty and has some sort of brown bits at the bottom. You want those brown bits because they really equal flavor. You can "clarify" it, if you are a purist, but I often am not. To clarify, just use a spoon and skim the foamy stuff off the top.
What are you going to do with your lovely brown butter now that you have it? Answer: EVERYTHING.
Here are some ideas.
Roasted Vegetables with Brown Butter Sauce
1 bundle asparagus
1 large handful grape tomatoes
1/2 red onion, cut into large hunks
1 T sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1/2 stick butter, browned
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 T soy sauce
Step 1) Heat your oven to 400 degrees.
Step 2) Arrange vegetables in a baking dish or roasting pan and give them a light coating with the cooking spray. Give them a sprinkle of kosher salt and pepper.
Step 3) While vegetables roast (about 30 minutes), prepare your sauce. Remember that browning butter can take only 3 or 4 minutes, so plan accordingly. Also, toast your sesame seeds. Just give them a few turns in a hot, dry skillet.
Step 4) Add the vinegar and soy sauce, and another small pinch of salt. Whisk together and pour over your vegetables. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
The toasted seeds will really bring out the nutty flavor of the brown butter. Serve these as an appetizer, a snack, or a side. Or, just make it for yourself and eat it over the sink.
Or, use brown butter as a spread. You can keep it in your fridge for slathering all over all manner of sinful things. Including your thighs. If you are into that sort of thing.
Brown Butter Spread
2 sticks butter
various herbs, whatever you have laying around
Step 1) Brown one of the sticks of butter.
Step 2) Combine it with the other stick (works best if the second stick is softened).
Step 3) Salt to taste. If you so desire, incorporate some sage or rosemary. Whip it with your mixer.
Step 4) Put it in the fridge to solidify.
Spread this on bread and then toast it. Set it out for people to dollop on their mashed potatoes. Or eat it with your fingers.
I could go on and on. You can make amazing blueberry muffins with brown butter. You can stir a little in with some brown sugar and drizzle it over roasted butternut squash. You can make brown butter chocolate chip cookies, for crying out loud. Seriously, people, I need help.
Try it once, and I promise, you'll never look back. It's a wonderful little secret to really sprucing up almost any recipe. You'll feel like a gourmand, and laugh all the way to the dietician's office, because it was all so easy.