I just got back from picking up a rug we had dry cleaned, so I’m a little pooped this afternoon. When I say “pick up a rug” what I mean is that I strapped on a Respro air mask because our pollution levels are over 350 today, walked for 20 minutes down to the dry cleaning place, picked up my rug (literally, with my arms) and carried it back home another 20 minutes. This is why running for the dry cleaning can be a little exhausting, especially when there’s no actual air around to breathe. The air quality monitors didn’t use to go up past 300, as it was believed that getting past 300 was pretty much impossible–and at any rate would be so rare that it wouldn’t be necessary. They re-calibrated the monitors just for us!
Last night we peaked at 436. This is how it is supposed to look out my window:
This is how it looks now:
And this is where I’d actually like to be:
Rabbit trail over.
Therefore…today it is more recipes.
Let’s talk about clarifying butter. Why would you want to clarify butter?
I think I’m ahead of myself. Let’s start with what is clarified butter? Other than butter that is neatly labelled to distinguish it from the cream cheese in your refrigerator when you grab things out of there. That could result in disaster because cooking is a science, and sometimes your big mistakes turn out awesome and you’ve invented penicillin or bleu cheese, but other times the joy of discovering that radioactive isotope is somewhat diminished as you say your final goodbyes to your loved ones through glass walls and a fog of radiation nausea.
By clarifying butter all you are doing is removing the water, milk solids, and sugars from the butter. By “sugars” I mean lactose. By “milk solids” I mean casein. By “water” I mean water.
There are several benefits to doing this.
First, clarified butter has a much higher smoke point, meaning you can use it for things like stir frying. It won’t burn and will act more like an oil, but impart a nicer flavor and healthier fat. Second, clarified butter has removed most of what can potentially bother people about dairy. Butter is usually the most benign of dairy products, but this is a way to make it even more safe–if you’re the kind of person that can’t tolerate dairy.
Third, it makes the house smell very nice.
To clarify your butter, simply put it in a pan with a thick bottom and heat the butter till it is thoroughly melted. The foam that comes to the top? Scoop that off. When it has completely stopped foaming, strain it through cheesecloth or paper towels into a jar or bowl. Let it sit for a while, then scoop off the top (the butter) and discard the bottom (the water). If you want a treat, keep cooking it a little longer once you’ve scooped off all the foam. it’ll turn a little brown, get a nice nutty flavor, and be very delightful all around.
Now, if you’re wondering, yes–clarified butter and ghee are basically the same thing. (Although ghee from Indian sources usually has some kind of flavor to it.) Why do it yourself rather than buy it? First, you might have a hard time finding ghee. Second, you can control the original butter source and make it grass-fed if you want. Third, it’s cheaper–a quick peak at a PA grocery store’s website tells me that the ghee they sell is $5.99 for 7.5 ounces and is not grass-fed; while 8 ounces of the best grass-fed butter is $4.99. Now, granted, when you clarify you’re going to lose some milk solids, water, and lactose–between 20 and 25% by weight of the total–but that’s still a better deal for grass-fed butter. If you go with plain old organic butter, you can get a whole 16 ounces at that store for $3.99.
As long as we’re messing with our butter, why not compound it? Compound butter is delicious. It goes particularly well on steaks. You can make delicious compound butter like this:
2 T chopped chives
1 T rosemary
1 T basil
Plato says he’s hungry
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