City Palate
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The Wine and Beer Issue - May June 2017

6 Quick Ways with Buttermilk

by Chris Halpin

Buttermilk is a remarkable thing; it has various interesting qualities, making it the essential ingredient for so many recipes. Buttermilk is the by-product of making butter, the liquid that is left over and allowed to ferment with a probiotic bacteria. This gives buttermilk its remarkable ability to thicken cream, tenderize meat and make baked goods light. It’s also great for our guts.

crème fraîche

Crème fraîche is the French version of sour cream, only richer and not as tangy. I like to use this instead of whipped cream or cream cheese. The live culture found in the buttermilk is what makes the cream thicken. Put 1 c. whipping cream into a glass or ceramic container and stir in 1 T. buttermilk. Cover with a tea towel, place on a counter and let stand for 48 hours. Cover with a lid and refrigerate. This will be good 10 to 14 days refrigerated. Makes 1 cup.

buttermilk biscuits with pepper, dill crème fraîche and smoked salmon

The tangy quality of buttermilk is due to a heightened acidity that occurs in the fermentation. This acid breaks down the gluten strands and this is why it makes baking fluff and crucial for biscuits. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a bowl, whisk together well 2 c. flour, 1-1/2 t. baking powder, 1/2 t. salt and 1/2 t. sugar. Grate 1/2 c. cold salted butter into the flour mixture, and with your hands, gently mix. Stir in 1 c. buttermilk and work into a ball. Do not over work the dough or it toughens. Divide the ball into 3 and pat into 6-inch disks and place on a baking sheet. Cut each round into 4 wedges, leaving them in a tight circle and lightly brush the tops with buttermilk. Bake in the oven until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. While the biscuits are baking, flavour the crème fraîche. In a bowl, put 1/2 c. crème fraîche, 1/2 t. white pepper, 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 t. sugar, 1 t. finely chopped chives and 2 T. chopped dill. Mix well.

When the biscuits are done, allow them to cool enough that you can handle them comfortably. Split and ribbon a piece of smoked salmon on top, then dollop with the dill crème. Makes 12 biscuits.

pecan buttermilk pancakes with clove crème fraîche

Buttermilk makes pancakes both fluffy and spongy, so worth it! In a small bowl, put 1 c. flour, 1/2 t. baking powder, 1/2 t. baking soda and 1 T. sugar. Mix well. In a larger bow, put 1 egg and 2 T. oil, and beat until fully incorporated. Beat in 2 c. buttermilk and 1 t. vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture and don’t worry too much about some lumps, these will work their way out while cooking.

To make the clove crème fraîche, combine 1/2 c. crème fraîche with 1 T. brown sugar and a pinch of ground cloves. Set aside for later.

Place a large skillet over high heat, when it’s very hot, add 1 t. canola oil and, with a paper towel, wipe the surface so only a slick of oil remains. Spoon 4 large spoonsful of batter into the pan and sprinkle each with pecan pieces. When the pancakes have bubbles on the surface, flip them. Serve with the clove crème fraiche and maple syrup. Makes 12, 4-inch pancakes.

wedge salad with buttermilk herb dressing and st. agur blue cheese

Buttermilk dressing is classic Canadiana. In a bowl, put 1/2 c. mayonnaise, 2 T. cider vinegar, 1/2 c. buttermilk, 1 T. honey, 1/2 t. salt, 1 t. dry mustard and 1 T. each finely chopped dill, chive and parsley. Whisk until smooth. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving, this allows the dressing time to thicken. Cut a small head of iceberg lettuce into 4 wedges and place them onto salad plates. Drizzle with the dressing, crumble the blue cheese over and garnish with freshly ground pepper. Serves 4.

fried chicken

Fried chicken is one of my favourite guilty pleasures. Using buttermilk for fried chicken both tenderizes it and makes the crust crispy. Rub 6 pieces of chicken with salt and pepper to taste. In a bowl put 2 c. buttermilk, 1 T. onion powder, 1 t. Sriracha hot sauce and mix well. Place the chicken into this mixture and evenly coat it. Place in the fridge for 1 hour or up to 24 hours. While this is marinating, in a bowl put 2 c. flour, 1/2 t. each dried sage, savoury and oregano, 1 t. each salt, white pepper and baking powder. Mix well and set aside for later.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a large deep pot put 2 inches of canola oil. Place over high heat and allow the oil to get very hot – this will take about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and roll in the flour mixture, making sure to get as much flour as possible onto the chicken skin. Fry in 2 batches, until the crust is golden. Place the chicken pieces on a wire rack on a baking tray. Place the baking tray in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the chicken is done. This method allows the chicken to drain fat while baking, making it a little more reasonable on the fat scale. Serves 2 to 6 people.

lamb curry with buttermilk and kaffir lime leaves

Buttermilk is the base for a lovely rich sauce, and it mellows the fire of the curry. Place a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and brown 1 kg. sliced lamb leg in 2 T. butter. I slice my own, but you can buy it already sliced at the Superstore in the frozen meat section. When the meat is browned, add 1 large onion, coarsely chopped, and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add 2 T. Madras curry paste plus 1 t. salt and sauté a minute more. Then stir in 2 c. buttermilk and 2 kaffir lime leaves. Bring to a rolling boil and allow the sauce to reduce until thick, about 5 minutes, stirring from time to time. Stir in 2 roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped and 1 c. green peas. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes more, adjust the salt and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve over rice. Serves 4.

Read Quick Ways in the digital issue of City Palate.