In our attempt to eat healthier foods, cut back on saturated fat and enjoy more fruits and vegetables, Dirk and I have made some significant changes in our everyday eating habits. One major change has been to reduce our consumption of the beloved food known as butter.
As a baker, pastry chef and chef de cuisine, my history with butter has been long and faithful. I have worked in restaurants where a case of Plugra was used daily. I think Anthony Bourdain, (one of my culinary heroes), estimated the average person dining out—especially in a French influenced bistro—will consume on average a half cup of butter during the coarse of their meal.
That’s right, a whole stick of butter in one sitting.
Based on my own work in French bistros, I can attest his estimate may actually be on the conservative side. No wonder all that damn food tastes so good.
And, up until a year ago my refrigerator’s inventory would include two different varieties of butter. One for sauces, usually a high quality European style (less water, higher fat content), and an unsalted version for baking or spreading on sandwiches and toast. We even had a butter ‘ramekin’ that was always at the ready, room temperature. If I had to guess, we probably went through at least 1 pound of butter per month, more if I was baking.
Things have changed. Now don’t get me wrong, I still have butter in my fridge. Actually most of it lives in the freezer, except for a tiny knob kept handy for cooking. I haven’t bought butter in 6 months, and there’s still more than a half pound in my freezer.
Until last weekend that is, when I came across a wonderful product called ghee. It’s a type of butter which has been clarified. Here are a few facts:
ghee |gē|nounclarified butter made from the milk of a buffalo or cow, used in Indian cooking.ORIGIN from Hindi ghī, from Sanskrit ghṛtá ‘sprinkled.’
This is India’s version of clarified butter, but it goes way beyond the kitchen in their culture. It is used in religious ceremonies, it aids in the absorption of medicinal herbs, offers healing properties and the spiritual aspect of ghee is recognized as well. Darn smart country. Darn smart.
Unlike regular butter, its milk solids have been removed so it has a higher burning temperature and is perfect for sautéing.
Its nutty flavor lends a rich nod to pan cooked foods, so you don’t need much. Simply add a tablespoon to a medium hot pan and sauté some delicate fish filets or chicken cutlets for a few minutes on each side. Toss with some snipped chives or parsley and plate.
If you’re feeling adventurous, pour in a splash of white wine or vermouth and let it cook for another second. You will have a gorgeous pan ‘jus’.
Dirk and I had some fresh trout filets to prepare the other night and they got the ghee treatment. The nutty essence of the ghee was a perfect pairing with the delicate fish, the garden herbs and wine lifted this dish that rivaled any bistro meal.
And I didn’t need a stick of butter to achieve those results. Healing properties indeed.