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Friday, November 09, 2007

Bread is an Excellent Vehicle for Butter

Out: Local wine.

Five Minutes Ago: Local produce.

In: Local meat.

Next week: Local butter.

That's right, my friends, butter. Soon, you'll see the provenance of butter, right there on the menu. I'm sure they're already doing it up in New York City. The sea bass will be served with a lemon beurre blanc, made with butter from the Happy Cow Creamery. The Happy Cow Creamery, by the way, produces some of my favorite butter. We buy it by the log, salted and unsalted, from Rosewood Market. And we've gotten spoiled; I just can't enjoy plain old table butter like I used to.

My love affair with butter began in childhood, when it was a forbidden fruit. Biscuits and butter were reserved for special occasions, like Thanksgiving or a sleepover at my best friend's house when we were little. Her mother made the best biscuits. If we ate our green beans and pork chops, we could slather a few of the warm, crispy little biscuits with butter and honey. I can still recall the perfect blend of crunchy, sweet and creamy as the biscuit melted in my mouth. At my house, we didn't have butter, just margarine, which was deemed healthy by my mother, the same woman who, after reading about it in a magazine, tried to make all four of us kids swallow a teaspoon of wheat germ a day. That lasted about two days, but the cannister of wheat germ stayed on the counter for the duration of my childhood; as far as I know, it's still there. I don't believe margarine is healthy in the least, but that's another story.

I cringe when I go to a restaurant and find that the butter is bland. Haphazardly chosen butter can taste a bit like Crisco. I want to see butter get the recognition and consideration it deserves. I want butter tasting to be an art. I want the Future Farmers of America to address butter.

Napoleon Dynamite: [drinks glass of milk] The defect in that one is bleach.

FFA Judge No. 1: That's right.

Napoleon Dynamite: Yessssssssss.

Napoleon Dynamite: [drinks second glass of milk] This tastes like the cow got into an onion patch.

FFA Judge No. 2: Correct.

Napoleon Dynamite: Yessssssssss.

Now imagine that same scene, but with butter. Glorious. I would be the first to sign up for a butter tasting. The butters could be paired with different breads. One would be an excellent croissant butter, another perfect for sourdough. We would talk about which breeds of cow produced the best milk for butter. And what the cows should eat to flavor and color the butter. There would be certified butter tasters. Unfortunately, they could not be called beurriers, as that name is taken. Maybe beurristes? Beurritos? Beurremeisters? Did you know that the yellow color of butter is determined by the amount of carotene in the cow pasture? I learned it from a book, my favorite book about food.

When I want too much information about some food or another, I consult The Larousse Gastronomique. I love the French, because they have strict laws about food. The Larousse lists ten labels for butter:

Farmhouse butter
Pasteurized butter
Dairy butter
Sweet butter
EEC butter
Imported butter
Restored butter
Salted butter
Regional butter
Concentrated (or cooking) butter

Would I ever like to get my hands on some of those some of those on my biscuits*. According to the Larousse, "Regional butter [is] produced solely in its region using cream from the local dairy cows. Each region's butter has its own distinctive flavour, texture and colour due to the quality of its pastures." Napoleon Dynamite would be able to pick out each one, I'm sure.

The Larousse refers to butter made from milk that didn't come from a cow as "alternative butter" and lumps it in the same category with the hated margarine. I think this is a bit of an insult to the buffaloes, camels, goats, ewes, mares and donkeys who provide milk for butter, but you know how the French are. In my book, margarine isn't even a food, much less a butter, but I do respect the French need to uphold truth in food labeling; in fact, I think it's sexy. In spite of that, we really enjoy goat butter and I'm looking forward to trying some of those other ones, although I'm not so sure about donkey butter.

At my butter tasting party, I plan to serve sparkling wines from several countries and maybe a dry white wine or two. I might add a dry rosé, for my husband, because he likes it and I don't like him to drink pink wine in public. I'll have at least ten butters, including Parmigiano Reggiano butter, which is sure to spark debate (Is it a butter? Is it a cheese? Cheese! No, butter! Spreadable cheese! Butter!) And I'll ask Heather if she's willing to talk bread pairings with me. And I'll make a big batch of my best friend's mom's biscuits. It will be verrah, verrah fancy. And you can host one, too! And make the biscuits!

My Best Friend's Mom's Biscuits

I called my best friend's mom to get this recipe when I was pregnant with my third child. I needed the recipe real bad.

Sift nearly 2 cups of self-rising flour ( reserve a little flour to cover your hands later) into a large mixing bowl. Cut 3/4 to 1 cup Butter Flavor Crisco into the flour until it's grainy. That's right, you heard me. Crisco. And I do get the irony of using butter flavored Crisco when I'm extolling the virtues of butter. Don't tell the French, okay?

Add 3/4 of a cup of buttermilk to the mix. By the way, did you know buttermilk comes in a powder? That's a good thing for those of us who aren't regular butter milk drinkers, because I have yet to find small containers of buttermilk and most recipes call for a cup or two, which leaves you stuck with a bunch of buttermilk. You can, however, freeze the leftover buttermilk in ice cube trays and put the cubes in a freezer bag to use later. Or just keep a canister of the powder on hand.

Use the rest of the flour to cover your hands and pat the dough out on a clean surface. Don't knead it. Roll or pat it to about a quarter of an inch thickness. Cut the biscuits and put them on a greased cookie sheet. I like to cut them small, about the size of a pat of butter. Bite size things have less calories, even if you eat twelve.

Cook the biscuits at 400° for about 10 minutes.

Eat them all, with lots of butter.

Namasté, y'all!

*That's what she said. Sorry, couldn't help myself.


Mandi said...

One of the very saddest things about having to eat GF, is the lack of former favored butter vehicles in my present diet.

Okay, maybe that's the only one.

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Anonymous said...

Finally, I thought here is a person with a refined palate to explore the different and exceptional qualities of butters. However, no mention of the treatment of the treatment of butter, cultured for example...but to even consider butter flavored Crisco? OMG...Lost me there...

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