Brown Butter Goodness

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

If there is a single dish that could be considered a staple on the Amish dinner table it's mashed potatoes drizzled with a generous amount of browned butter. This was one of the first things I learned to cook as a young girl in my mama's kitchen.  Standing at the sink, I would wash the earthy smelling potatoes gathered from the wooden crate in the cellar and then deftly peel the skins into a pile of thin shavings, to be fed to the chickens later.  The potatoes were boiled in a large kettle of water until tender then plopped into Mama's old Sunbeam mixer and whipped to no-lumps-allowed smoothness.

The key to creamy potatoes was learning to whip the potatoes first, with no additives, until they were mostly mashed, then adding incremental amounts of butter, warmed milk and that secret ingredient that kept them from getting stiff - cream cheese. But the crowing glory of a great pot of this traditional dish was the browned butter.

When I talk about browned butter most people raise their eyebrows with a quizzical look and ask,  "What's browned butter?" Oh, let me tell you!  Browned butter is heavenly goodness that enhances the flavor of everything it touches.  It's simple, really.  You pull out a tiny skillet or pot (the older the better), turn it to medium heat and put a slab of butter in it.  Then you watch it (this is very important or you'll end up with burnt butter) as it melts, then bubbles into golden foam and within a few more seconds turn just the right shade of brown. You then pour this melted goodness over the mound of whipped potatoes making sure it drizzles into the little crevices you have created with a wooden spoon to receive little pools of this golden liquid.

The next time you want to jazz up a dish, top it with some browned butter and add a little taste of Amish cooking.

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