Tag Archives: butter

Homemade Butter… in 5 minutes

14 Sep
Homemade Butter.jpg

Butter made in 5 minutes

One of my favorite movies of all time is Rosemary’s Baby, still as chilling and brilliantly acted and directed as it was almost 50 years ago when it debuted. A favorite line in the movie has a modern relevance regarding food.

Rosemary (Mia Farrow), as you should know, becomes pregnant after moving into an old gothic apartment building on Central Park. On the advice of her doctor, she begins drinking a fresh, healthy milkshake every day, mixed and delivered by her next door neighbor, Minnie Castavet (Ruth Gordon deservedly won an Oscar for this role). According to Minnie, the shake contains raw egg, gelatin, herbs, and something called Tannis Root.

Rosemary Baby Shake 2

Mia Farrow and Ruth Gordon in “Rosemary’s Baby”

Rosemary, along with the audience, slowly begins to suspect there is a conspiracy to steal or harm her baby. Famously, very little happens in the movie yet it ruthlessly crawls under the skin. The ordinary becomes terrifying as we wonder if something is actually happening or if Rosemary’s imagination is running wild. 

When the book (1967) and the movie (1968) were each released, both phenomenal hits, our country and much of the world was in the midst of a decades long embrace of chemically created food over natural: formula over breast milk, margarine or oleo over butter, Saccharin and corn syrup instead of sugar, boxed food over food made from scratch, etc, etc. It seems so obvious now that something natural would be healthier than something created in a lab. But given years of misinformation and outright lies from both the government and food corporations, there was no reason for the public to believe otherwise. (I really despise the FDA, a rant I’ll reserve for another post.)

What’s fascinating today about Rosemary’s Baby is that the shake, made from natural ingredients, is one of the creepiest things in the movie. It becomes a focal point and a source of fear for the audience, and then Rosemary herself. A knot begins to form in our stomachs every time Rosemary takes a sip. As her paranoia increases, she finally snaps and revolts against what she perceives is being done to her. Rosemary then delivers the line I love:

“I want my vitamins from pills, like everyone else!”

Crafted and created in a lab is what was healthy and normal to audiences at the time. Natural was not. Even with our modern perspective, we are thrilled when Rosemary takes this stand. Is she too late? Is anything actually wrong? You’ll have to watch this brilliant movie to find out. (Note: It’s free if you have Amazon prime… the movie is gorgeously shot by William Fraker so try to watch it on a big screen!)

We are thankfully moving away from the days of margarine and corn syrup (lies, LIES!) and the idea that crafted in a lab is good for you. We have returned to the wonderful knowledge that something as simple and wonderful as butter can be enjoyed without the guilt that was thrust upon us for years. It actually is healthy!

Yet true, decadent butter is still hard to find, at least in the USA, thank you FDA. Years ago I was in Italy and ate at a small family owned hotel/restaurant on a farm. After I sat down, they brought me bread and butter. I tasted the butter on the bread and thought my head would explode. I’d never tasted anything so good. I called the owner over and in my very broken Italian kept asking him, ‘What is this??” He kept shrugging and saying, “It’s butter.” I kept saying,  “No, this is NOT butter.” He became frustrated and looked at me like a stupid American and finally threw up his hands. “It’s just butter!” I realized later it was butter that had been churned that very day, with no pasteurization. My goodness, was that incredible butter, so different than what we buy in most stores. 

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Il Falconiere

I’ve recently discovered you can make such butter at home, fast, without a churn! All you need is some heavy (whipping) cream and a food processor. With basically no effort at all, you will have fresh, incredible butter. Give this a try (and let me know what you think!)

HOMEMADE BUTTER

Ingredients

1 cup whipping cream (I always double this to 2 cups)

Butter Ingredients

Ingredient for homemade butter

Directions (descriptive)

  • Pour the cream into the food processor. Turn it on. 
  • Wait. And listen:  In about 2 minutes, the cream will start to turn into whipped cream. You can hear the change. (This is actually a great way to make whipped cream for desserts.) You could stop now if you want fresh whipped cream but let it keep going.
  • In 2 or 3 more minutes (4 or 5 total) you will hear another change as the mixture gets even thicker. What is happening now is the whipped cream is separating into butter and buttermilk. 
  • After this change in sound, stop the food processor. You should have a lot of fresh butter, with liquid around the butter and on the bottom. This is the buttermilk. (If it needs a little more time, just turn it back on.)
  • Dump the contents into a fine mesh strainer. As the buttermilk drains, take the butter in your hands and squeeze it and knead it (this is the fun part) so that even more liquid comes out. As you do this, move the butter into a bowl and continue squeezing/kneading until all the butter is out of the strainer and in the bowl.
  • Voila! Homemade butter. You can add salt (I always do) and put it in whatever ramekin or container you desire. It’s ready to go but you can also stick it in the fridge to firm up a little.
  • For flavored butters, add whatever you want: thyme (or any herb or combination); black pepper; garlic – fresh, sautéed or roasted; lemon zest; chives… anything! Then mix and put into your containers.

Directions (short)

  • Pour the cream into the food processor. Turn it on. In five minutes, you have butter. Strain, squeeze and enjoy.

Additional note: Check out Ruth Gordon’s wiki page and look further into her. She was a fascinating, dazzlingly talented woman, not only as an actress but as a writer. With her husband, Garson Kanin, she wrote many movies and was nominated for 3 Academy Awards for her writing, including the wildly entertaining Adam’s Rib.  She’s pretty awesome herself.

The Chicken Or The Egg…

4 May

It may be the age-old question but for me the answer to ‘Which came first?’ is simple: The Egg. Not that I don’t love chicken. I’m obsessed with chicken, as some of you know. This obsession started early as we ate a lot of chicken when I was a child. Growing up in The South, we ate a lot of fried chicken. Mom made a killer Chicken Tetrazzini I still think of with intense fondness. We had roast chicken occasionally and, in my teen years when we were trying to get my dad to eat healthy, we ate a lot of grilled chicken. But even before my love of chicken there was The Egg.

I always loved eggs. I loved them even before I remember, well, anything. My first actual memory as a child isn’t an egg but is sitting in a movie theatre. This experience lead to my career path as well as to this blog. I remember actually falling in love with movies that day. I sat in the theatre thinking, ‘Yeah, Ok, I get it, that’s amazing, I love this, that’s what I want to do.‘ But I don’t have a moment in my memory where I fell in love with eggs. I simply always was in love with them. An egg has to be one of the first items of real food Mom fed me. We had them for breakfast 4 or 5 times a week … and occasionally for supper, ‘Breakfast for dinner’!… so I fell in love with them even before that first actual memory in the movie theatre.

This is a love affair that has not waned.

At this point I’m beating a dead horse but, my goodness, I love eggs. An egg truly is the perfect food. Not only can you eat one on its own in so many wonderful ways, an egg is remarkably versatile. An egg can do virtually anything or go into virtually anything. Feel free to suggest a food in which you can’t use an egg but I’m hard pressed to think of what. If a dish is savory, at the very least you can top it with a fried egg, a trend that has exploded in restaurants lately. If on the other hand a dish is sweet, chances are you can still beautifully incorporate an egg, for taste, for texture, for plain old wonderful goodness. The Egg is definitely a deserted island food for me. You know the game: If you could only have 5 foods for the rest of your life to eat on a deserted island, what would you choose? The egg is at the top of my list.

Click here for the best egg recipe you’ve ever had (and the rest of the post)

A Cook/Book That Changed My Life

23 Mar

I grew up eating wonderful food. Both my parents were excellent cooks. Mom cooked most of the meals, but Dad was also very adept in the kitchen. Mom, in fact, said it was my father who taught her how to cook, after they were married, as she had little desire or use for cooking until she became a wife and it was forced upon her. Thankfully, she came to enjoy cooking immensely and was one hell of a great cook.

Both my grandmothers — my maternal Grandmother, “Honey” and my paternal grandmother, “Maw-Maw”, the pronunciation of which is difficult to get on paper — were also incredible cooks. I’m not sure my maternal grandfather, “Papa”, ever cooked, though like his grandson he sure enjoyed eating. Dad’s dad, “Paw-Paw”, also didn’t cook much but when he did, he shined. Among other things, he made a terrific and rather intense squirrel gumbo. Just watch out for the buckshot in the meat…

Our meals tended to be comprised of rich, heavy food. Deep dark gumbos, thickly layered casseroles, braised meats, vegetables laden with butter and cream. Eating vegetables light meant broiled or sauteed only in butter, minus cheese and/or cream. Dad’s side of the family tree is Cajun so we ate a lot of white rice, as opposed to potatoes and bread. To this day there are few things in the world better to me than white rice ladled with pan drippings from roasted meats. We ate loads of Tex-Mex as well. This was good food in the best sense of the word. It wasn’t the healthiest food, however, evidenced most effectively by my Dad’s sudden death, mid-sentence to my mom, of a heart attack at age 54.

I was 24 years old when Dad died. Blessed with his same genes, I realized I needed to at least try to eat healthier. Working post-college for ten years as a waiter in a terrific steak house didn’t make eating healthy easy. (Just wait for the waiting tables blog. Just you wait.) Besides, I didn’t really know how to eat healthy, or rather, how to eat healthy and still have the food taste good. This probably seems strange now but if you’re over 30, you might remember how different our thinking about food was at the time. Only ‘hippies’ were interested in farmer’s markets and organic produce.  We were still being told margarine was healthier than butter, for goodness sakes! Much of what we were told and taught about food for years now seems insane, so it might be hard to remember how blinded we were. For me, a bowl of Fettuccine Alfredo made with one stick of butter rather than two sticks of butter, and a slight cutting back on the cream, was healthy cooking.

One afternoon driving to the steakhouse, however, I heard a woman being interviewed on NPR about her new cookbook…

Click here for the rest of the post!

The Cornbread of My Dreams

9 Mar

Certain dishes seem to have no middle ground. They’re either incredibly good or absolutely suck. This is not always true! While every prepared food certainly has great and bad versions, most can also have serviceable versions that do the job. Take the caesar salad. I’ve had a few out of this world caesar salads, like the tableside caesar at the Dal Rae  in Pico Rivera. Wow. I’ve had a few terrible caesars, too, that no one should ever have to eat. Most caesars, though, fall somewhere pleasantly in the middle. Not the best but easy and enjoyable to eat. Cheeseburgers (not talking fast food here! stay away, people) are the same. They can be great, they can be bad but usually they’re pretty good. This is why we see certain foods on just about every menu. A cook might not be able to craft a brilliant version, but chances are the cook won’t blow it terribly.

Other dishes, though, don’t have that serviceable in-between version. Meatloaf comes to mind. It seems always to be either wonderful — moist, spicy, delicious — or completely inedible — dry, tasteless, yuck. I rarely order meatloaf. The odds are too great it won’t be good. Cake is another. Has anyone here ever had “cake in the middle”? It’s always at either extreme. When you get a slice of incredibly moist cake with a great frosting, there doesn’t seem to be much better on the planet. But most cake is awful. There’s a magic to making cake most people don’t seem to be able to create, myself included. (I tend to be a disaster when it comes to baking.) Perhaps worst of all is gnocci. I hated gnocchi most of my life and couldn’t understand why anyone ate it because any time I tried gnocchi it was gummy, pasty, gross. Gnocci? Seriously? Then one day I had an amazing gnocchi — off someone else’s plate of course, they made me try —  and a light went off. Gnocci!  Seriously!

Click here for the rest of the post… and the best cornbread of your life