Cook it! 2012 March Resolution: Make Butter – Part 1

We’re into the third month of cook it 2012, and I’m pretty excited about the most recent undertaking.  So far I’ve tackled pasta-making and bread-baking, and now… butter.  I’ve been wanting to make butter ever since I read this great post here from the Hungry Tigress.  I’m all about DIY, and my olive tree is still really small and not looking very promising in the olive oil department, so making my own butter can fill the void for right now.

So one of the reasons that I’m so excited about this is that butter is such a fundamental ingredient in every day cooking.  (Most DIY food projects are really tasty, but …  those jars of marmalade that ended up too sweet and then didn’t set, that I could certainly use as a pancake or ice cream topping? They’re still in the pantry).  Butter isn’t an ingredient that you have to make an effort to use.  It’s butter.  You don’t really need to brainstorm ideas.  I don’t really think there’s such a thing as having “too much butter.”  It just disappears, like toilet paper or beer. One of the reasons I hadn’t bothered with this project yet is that I didn’t have a good source for milk.  I found some very high quality raw, organic cream at the local natural food store, but I’m hoping to find a producer in Mendocino County if I keep searching.  (…. hello?… crossing my fingers for a barrage of e-mails from local dairy producers proving me wrong about availability…)

The little pints of cream that I bought weren’t cheap at all.  The flavor is absolutely amazing, though.  I remember the first time I ate an heirloom tomato, the first time I tried foie gras, and now, the first time I tried real cream.  It has officially joined the ranks of formative culinary experiences that will forever change how and what I want to be cooking.  It makes coffee taste a million times more delicious, and I can’t wait until berry season – I need to have blueberries and cream in my life, all the time.

So not only did I discover fresh, raw cream, I also got to make butter with it. Making butter is ridiculously, joyfully easy, absolutely a beginner project that involves very little time or equipment.  So here’s the deal: You know how to make whipped cream, right? Probably in a stand mixer? Make whipped cream, but then just keep going.  There’s  a moment in the middle of the project where you might think:

Wait, I really like whipped cream.  I should just make whipped cream right now, not butter.  Lemme go bake a pie real quick to go with this.

But if you persevere and vow to buy other cream for making whipped cream on another day, this whipped cream will quickly turn clumpy and then start to separate into butter and buttermilk.  This is the part of the project where my plan totally derailed.  I have a thing that I’m making with the butter that I’m very excited about, but I got totally distracted by the fresh buttermilk and ended up making buttermilk fried chicken before I made the other, butter-showcasing recipe.  Hence the “part 1.” I have more thoughts about butter that will be coming soon….Fried chicken is extra delicious when you marinade it in this wonderful fresh buttermilk.  The little sparkles of butter that get left behind in the buttermilk will make your fried chicken taste extra special.Also that I put bacon fat in the frying oil…  that doesn’t hurt.Go big or go home, right?*

and now, some recipes:

Butter

cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • the best cream  you can find: raw is good, pasteurized is also good, but not ultra-pasteurized.  (the amount is flexible, you can buy a little bit or a lot, and you end up with either a little bit of butter or a lot)

Put the cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on high speed for awhile.  The cream will turn to whipped cream, and then separate into butter and buttermilk.  Drain the buttermilk into a bowl and reserve it for the fried chicken (or whatever you want to make).  Use a wooden spoon to smoosh all the butter into one big clump.  Take the bowl off the stand mixer and go over to the sink with it…  Run cold water over the butter and press down with the spoon to get out any remaining buttermilk (just dump it down the sink, there won’t be much at this point).  Pack the butter into jars. They last for about a week in the fridge and freeze very well.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Cook Time: an hour or so

Serves: oh, 4? It depends who’s eating and how much they like chicken

Ingredients:

  • 2- 2.5 lbs. skin-on chicken pieces**

For the marinade:

  • 2 or 3 cups of fresh buttermilk (this is what I got from turning three pints of cream into butter)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tbs. fresh herbs, minced- any combination of thyme, oregano, rosemary sage, whatever you have….
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

For the breading:

  • 3 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 tbs. poultry seasoning (a dried mix of the herbs mentioned above)
  • 1 tbs. garlic powder
  • 1 tbs. paprika
  • 1 tbs. chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 3 tsp. sea salt

For frying:

  • 6 c. canola or other high temperature cooking oil
  • 1/4 c. bacon fat (I save the fat when we cook bacon… that’s good stuff, no need to throw it away)

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a large container.  Add the chicken pieces.  Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or so.

Heat up the oils in a large, heavy-bottomed pot (I use my jam pot for frying as well).  If you have a thermometer, heat the oil to 350 degrees.  If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test that the oil is hot by putting a drop of water into the oil. If it’s hot, the water will sizzle like crazy.  Once the oil gets hot, you can probably turn the heat down to medium high or medium.  Important: Don’t rush the oil.  Make sure it’s hot. If you put the chicken into lukewarm oil it will be gross and turn out all greasy and soggy.  At this point you should also preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

While the oil is heating, combine the ingredients for the breading in a large dish.  Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade.  Try to give them a good slosh around to make sure that you get lots of marinade on the chicken as you remove each piece. Roll around the chicken pieces in the breading, making sure to thoroughly cover each piece.

Once the chicken is breaded and the oil is hot, put the chicken pieces in the oil to fry.  Work in batches so that each piece is surrounded by plenty of oil- you don’t really want the pieces to touch each other while they’re frying.  Cook the pieces for about 10 minutes, until they’re looking nice and golden brown.  Transfer the pieces to a pan with a rack and put them in the oven to finish (The rack is important! If you put them right on a pan the breading will get soggy).  The chicken will probably need about 10 minutes in the oven to finish all the way, but the time will vary depending on the size of the pieces.  Check for doneness with a thermometer; it should read about 165 degrees.

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For anyone cooking along with the cook it! 2012 resolutions:

To be included in the butter round-up, e-mail me (the jamgirl@gmail.com)

with a link to your post by April 15, 2012 at 12 PM (PST).

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*J. saw me putting bacon grease in the cooking oil and was skeptical, I believe based on health reasons.  It’s fried chicken though. It’s inherently not a healthy dinner choice.  Save healthy for a different night.  I usually advocate a diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and very little meat, but if you’re going to do fried chicken, you might as well just go for it.

**I used to cringe at the price of organic chicken, but then I tried it and realized it’s far superior to the conventional equivalent.  The meat is richer and… my friend Paula from Mendocino Organics described it as “more chickeny.”  They have a chicken CSA where you can get humanely raised delicious organic chicken, perfect for this recipe.

Cook it! 2012: The Great Pasta Round-Up

The first resolution of the new year is officially complete: pasta has been made, cross that baby off the list. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was absolutely blown away by the food that everyone made.

I know that making pasta can be one of those projects that, midway through, you start swearing and wondering why you thought it would be a good idea to attempt something so labor intensive.  I am so happy that all of you kept at it and made such delicious looking food!  I want to say some kind of cheesy food bloggy thing, something like “oooh that lasagna looks so good I can practically taste it through the computer screen” but that’s total crap. Looking at it doesn’t cut it at all, I wanna eat it!

Here are a few of the highlights, gathered together from all of the posts:

Here are the links to all the posts:

Lasagna, from Grow and Resist: reading this post made me upset, because it just made me really want lasagna, but not my stupid lasagna — I want Meg’s lasagna with those beautiful homemade noodles. Save me a plate, please.

Orecchiette al Sugo con le Polpetine, from The Wholesome Epicure: that sauce, oh my goodness….  This post also has the internet’s cutest picture of a sweet little kid making playdoh orecchiette.  Future chefs in training!

Orecchiette Bolognese, from the Kitchen Ninja: at this point, I’m basically just drooling all over my laptop.  Who doesn’t love a good bolognese sauce?

Ramen Noodles, from Oh, Briggsy: a dream bowl of ramen with all the toppings, all from scratch, all at home, no epic culinary pilgrimage to Momofuku required.  So impressive!

Rosemary Linguini with Caramelized Onions, Walnuts & Blue Cheese, from My Pantry Shelf: proves that you don’t need a pasta machine to make your own pasta from scratch.  Sage, rosemary, bay leaves, white wine, blue cheese = my kind of dish, for sure.

Ravioli, from Snowflake Kitchen: Kate, I am 100% sold on the ravioli mold, those look absolutely perfect. Also, I love the emphasis on fresh eggs, I completely agree.

Spaghetti & Meatballs, from Grow it Cook it Can it

Spätzle, from Homemade Trade: this post made me really want to visit Germany again…. or maybe just make the journey down to San Francisco and beg Aimee to make me some of her delicious-looking spätzle.  (When do we get the recipe for your mom’s goulasch? I want it! I am a junky for Recipes That Someone’s Mom Has Been Making For Their Birthday Forever.)

Stuffed Shells, from Homesprout: brilliant! with fresh eggs from backyard chickens and homemade fresh ricotta cheese.  Fancy restaurants wish they had stuff this good on the menu.

(Writing this post meant putting in nine billion links and pictures from different sites, actually reading e-mails and checking my inbox, and a bunch more… so please, if for some reason I’ve forgotten someone or messed up a link, or messed up giving someone credit somewhere, please tell me right away and I’ll fix it.)

Thanks everyone for cooking along.  Don’t forget, the February Cook it Resolution is all about bread making…. I made a couple loaves of sandwich bread but I’ve gotten my hands on a sourdough starter that one of my baker friends gave me, and there are all sorts of cookbooks spread out in the kitchen with different recipes I’m looking at and working on.  (Pinterest is all well and good, but what’s the point of bookmarking cool stuff if you can’t trash your house while you do it?)

If you’re just reading about Cook it! 2012 and want to join in the fun…. send me an e-mail at thejamgirl@gmail.com.

Happy baking!