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Brown butter is made by toasting the milk solids in butter so that it turns a rich, nutty brown. It is often used in French cuisine to make delicately flavored pastries and sauces, and it can also be used as a straight condiment on things like pasta and mashed potatoes. This butter is actually quite easy to make, and it can add a new level of flavor to otherwise less interesting dishes, so it is well worth learning. All that a cook needs is a sturdy saucepan, a heat proof spatula, and some unsalted butter.
In French, brown butter is known as beurre noisette, or “hazelnut butter,” a reference to the nutty flavor, aroma, and color that it has. Some recipes may specifically call for it, especially in the case of pastry, and it can also be added to pastry to make it more interesting. In addition, the butter can be mixed with ingredients like sage, parsley, or lemon juice to turn it into a sauce for things like fish and sauteed vegetables.
A cook can make it by taking unsalted butter and putting it into a cold saucepan. The butter should be melted on a medium heat setting, with the cook stirring it periodically to make sure that the butter does not burn. The simmering may start to foam slightly, which is quite normal, and it will begin to turn brown. When it has browned evenly, it should be removed from the heat. A fine balance must be struck between browned and burned butter, so cooks should be especially attentive at the end of the process to avoid ruining the butter.
Brown butter can be used immediately or stored under refrigeration in an airtight container for several weeks. It can also be frozen, although cooks should make sure it is completely cool to avoid the formation of condensation that may ice over. When reheating butter which has been chilled or frozen, the cook should be very careful not to burn it. He or she may want to try warming it in a double boiler and keep a close eye on it so that it does not burn.
Cooks can use the butter in many of the same places that they would use conventional butter. The slight taste of nuts complements a wide range of dishes, from biscuits to ravioli. It can also be used in unusual places, like dressings for salads and spreads. One of the most popular dishes that include it is a brown butter and sage sauce for pasta, especially nutty filled pastas like pumpkin ravioli or squash tortellini.
One thing that is really important to remember when you're learning how to brown butter is just how important it is to keep an eye on it all the time, because the line between browned butter and burned butter can be very thin sometimes.
I used to get so infuriated every time I tried to make brown butter pound cake because it seemed like every single time I would end up burning the butter and having to start over again before I could continue with my cake.
I could have sworn that I only turned my back for two seconds and suddenly the butter would be burning and nasty. So anyway, just remember to keep your eye on your butter if you want to avoid having to start your recipes over again!
One of my favorite easy brown butter recipes is brown butter Rice Krispie treats. It's a nice twist on an old favorite, and gives the treats a more complex flavor -- great for adults and picky kids.
It's really easy. All you do is take a stick of unsalted butter, a bag of marshmallows, a fourth a teaspoon of salt, and about half a box of Rice Krispies.
Brown your butter, and just as it browns, take it off the stove and stir in the marshmallows. Stir the mixture until it's smooth. Once that's all mixed, then stir in your salt and cereal, but make sure that they're mixed very well so that you don't end up with one crazy salty Rice Krispie treat in your batch.
Quickly spread it into a pan, let it cool, then cut and enjoy.
I have found that brown butter makes a really fantastic addition to steak. I actually found this out accidentally when I was frying a steak a few years earlier. I had put the butter in the pan to start the pan, and then forgot about it for a few minutes until I started to smell the butter get that distinctive, brown butter nutty taste.
Well, I figured it smelled all right, even kind of good, so I decided to fry my steak in it anyway, and let me tell you, it was amazing! I added in a few mushrooms, and the combination of the nutty taste of the brown butter with the slightly fungal taste of the mushrooms and
the meaty taste of the steak...oh, heavenly.
After that, I started experimenting with making brown butter sauce for other things, like brown butter risotto and brown butter ravioli, and I can tell you, it is one of my standbys for cooking now.
Using a brown butter sauce is a great way to make a meal look and taste a little fancier without having to make that much of an effort -- and the best thing is, most of the time people have no idea what you've done!