Recipes the Third

As human beings, we are the only organisms that create for the sheer stupid pleasure of doing so. Whether it’s laying out a garden, composing a new tune on the piano, writing a bit of poetry, manipulating a digital photo, redecorating a room, or inventing a new chili recipe – we are happiest when we are creating.
–Gary Hamel

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:

1 pound butter
2 T chopped chives
1 T rosemary
1 T basil
1 pound butter
4 t lemon zest
3-4 garlic cloves, mashed up
salt and pepper to taste (probably around 2 t each)
In either case, mash that butter till it’s pretty soft, add in your herbs and stuff, let it sit for a bit to mix the flavors and you’ve got magic. There’s no limit to the possibilities with compound butter: what about bleu cheese and green onion? Chipolte mint? Chile lime? Molasses clove or honey vanilla over your sweet potatoes this Thanksgiving? There’s just no end.
The Roommate thought my bone broth this week was the best yet, so I’ll end by sharing that one:
1 big bone from a lamb
1 giant stock pot
1/2 cup red wine
small handful of whole peppercorns
4 big garlic cloves
1 T whole cumin
1/2 red onion
gobs of salt–to taste
Add all but the last two ingredients to the pot and let it simmer for a good long time. Till the bone just falls apart, really. When you get to the last hour, add your salt and onion.
About two full days of simmering will do. Don’t worry if you can’t be home to monitor all the time. You can do it in a crock pot on low–just leave it on. Or do it on the stove top when you are home. Bring it to a rolling boil when you need to leave, cover the lid with a cloth to hold in the heat and leave it (or sleep) for 8 or so hours. You can start it back up in the morning. I started it at about 10am on a Saturday. It simmered till about 11pm. I covered it and left it till the morning. Sunday I turned it on first thing and brought it back to a good boil, for about 2 1/2 hours,  then turned it off and went to church. We got home around 12:30 and it went back on till 11pm. Monday it was on from 7am till dinner at 7pm–so almost 39 hours total. It’s so fatty that we don’t treat it like soup. We drink a small mug of it once a day or once every other day.
That’s all for now folks. Happy cooking!

Plato says he’s hungry

Help us keep paying for this site and feeding the dogs.


One thought on “Recipes the Third

  1. “We are happiest when we are creating.” and why not? Created in His image, to glorify Him, by becoming like Him – the Creator of all things.

    Thanks for the great recipes and aside remarks. Makes the medicine go down!

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