Monday, February 13, 2012

Buttermilk 4 ways (Because the carton always holds too much)

I don't know about you but it drives me nuts when I have to buy like 4 times the amount of an ingredient I need because that's the only size that's offered. It's rare that I come across a recipe that requires a whole Quart of Buttermilk, yet that's the only size they offer it in. No half pints. No 8 ounce cartons. (At least not at my grocery stores that I frequent). So what' s a girl to do? After finding myself in this situation more than once I've cultivated some great buttermilk recipes from epicurious to help you use up all that left over in a hurry.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken
This may be the recipe that gets you into too-much-leftover-buttermilk trouble in the first place but now you will have 3 other fabulous recipes to use it up so you don't need to worry! I had never actually made fried chicken before but now that I have my fabulous mini fryer it felt like time. I found this recipe via Epicurious and instantly knew it was a winner as it was based on the recipe served at Ad Hoc, the family dining concept of the illustrious Chef Thomas Keller. First brined over night to really enhance the flavor of the chicken, it is then dredged in a seasoned flour mixture, buttermilk, and the flour mixture again to give it a nice thick coat.

While brewing up the brine of fresh rosemary, lemon, onions & garlic, I couldn't help being transported by the aroma to my elementary school days when I planted my first rosemary bush in our yard and would frequently use the fragrant branches in my "cooking", generally inedible concoctions put together with whatever I could scrounge from the yard or or cabinets. Little could I know back in those days what a joy and creative process cooking would remain for me into my adult life. I love when scents trigger memories and that will always be one of my favorite parts of cooking and eating- creating those lasting memories with friends and loved ones.

Hopefully this Fried Chicken Can become one of those memories for you!

Rosemary- Brined, Buttermilk Fried Chicken
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed with the flat side of a knife
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 5 or 6 branches rosemary, each 4 to 5 inches/10 to 12 centimeters long
  • 4 1/2 cups/1 liter water
  • 1 lemon, quartered

( I only bought 6 legs with the drumsticks and thighs removed, in terms of the brine this was actually perfect. There was a lot of flour mixture leftover however)
  • 8 chicken legs, drumsticks and thighs separated
  • 8 chicken wings, wing tips removed
  • 3 cups/420 grams all-purpose/plain flour
  • 3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 cups/480 milliliters buttermilk
  • Oil for deep-frying
Make the brine:
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté the onion and garlic in the oil until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons salt after the onion and garlic have cooked for 30 seconds or so. Add the rosemary and cook to heat it, 30 seconds or so. Add the water and lemon, squeezing the juice from the wedges into the water and removing any seeds. Bring the water to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and allow the brine to cool. Refrigerate until chilled.
Place all the chicken pieces in a large, sturdy plastic bag.  Set the bag in a large bowl for support. (I used a large gladware container it worked really well in the fridge) Pour the cooled brine and aromatics into the bag. Seal the bag so that you remove as much air as possible and the chicken is submerged in the brine. Refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours, agitating the bag occasionally to redistribute the brine and the chicken.
Prep & Frying:
Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse under cold water, pat dry, and set on a rack or on paper towels. The chicken can be refrigerated for up to 3 days before you cook it, or it can be cooked immediately. Ideally, it should be refrigerated, uncovered, for a day to dry out the skin, I was able to give it about 3 hours 
Combine the flour, black pepper, paprika, sea salt, cayenne, and baking powder in a bowl. (At first this all seemed like a lot of seasoning and I could smell the cayenne in the flour mixture which made me nervous but don't be scared by the time it is done it is flavorful but not spicy) Whisk to distribute the ingredients. Divide this mixture between two bowls. Pour the buttermilk into a third bowl. Set a rack on a baking sheet/tray. Dredge the chicken in the flour, shake off the excess, and set the dusted pieces on the rack. Dip the pieces in the buttermilk, then dredge them aggressively in the second bowl of flour and return them to the rack.
Heat oil in a pan for deep-frying to 350°F/180°C. Add as many chicken pieces as you can without crowding the pan. Cook the chicken, turning the pieces occasionally, until they are cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes depending on their size. Remove to a clean rack and allow them to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
One issue we had was that while it looked great on the outside we weren't able to achieve the necessary doneness in the middle with the fryer. If you notice this when you cut open one of your first pieces have no fear. We baked it in the oven at 350 for about 10 - 15 minutes (depending on the doneness you are starting with) and were able to get it cooked through. Don't be too scared by some pink around the bone if it has a cooked texture (not that translucent gel type look) you are probably fine.

I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that dredging was my least favorite part. I really really dislike touching bone in raw chicken. It gives me the willies. and the one drumstick with the broken bone half way poking out? Almost made me barf. there was a lot of wussy whimpering but I did it. In the name of all that is good and tasty. You're welcome.
Overall this fried chicken was incredible. One of the best crusts I have ever tasted and the chicken had so much subtle flavor from the brine it just hit it out of the park!
Buttermilk Biscuits
This has become one of my FAVORITE go to biscuit recipes. I absolutely love it and if I've got some buttermilk lingering in the fridge I find myself reaching for it regularly to turn out a few of these. Originally a Gourmet Magazine creation (June '05 issue) I love to jazz them up with a 1/4 cup of finely grated Parmesan, Gruyere, or mild cheddar if I have some in the fridge, or a Tablespoon of Italian herbs or garlic powder. One time I even put in blueberries and lemon zest making them some of the fluffiest biscuit/scones you had ever had (pictured below)! Along with the Buttermilk Pancakes below, these are a great canvas for other flavors should you choose but they are also fabulous all on their own.

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • Rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

  • 3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk

  • 1 tablespoon milk or cream for brushing biscuits

  • Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F.
    Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda onto a sheet of wax paper, then sift again into a bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir with a fork until a dough just forms (dough will be moist).
    Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently 6 times. Roll dough into a long cylinder, you can wrap the dough in plastic and place it in the fridge for later if you like (I love to serve my guests biscuits straight from the oven so this saves effort later when other elements need more last minute attention) when you are ready to bake just pulled off small handfuls and place on your parchment paper lined baking sheet with the rugged side up (I like a nice rustic look), arranging them 2 inches apart, and brush tops with milk or cream. Bake until pale golden, 12 to 15 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool to room temperature.

     Buttermilk Pancakes
    You just can't go wrong with some nice fluffy buttermilk pancakes. I've used this recipe from Gourmet Magazine's May 2004 issue (via Epicurious) a number of times and it is always great. Sometimes to change things up I like to add a couple heaping spoon fulls of jam to the batter to give them some added color and fruity flavor, or a Tablespoon of Pumpkin Pie spice adds great fall flavors. This is a perfect base pancake batter so feel free to get creative!

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten 

  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk 

  • Vegetable oil for brushing griddle

  • Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, egg, and buttermilk until smooth.

    Heat a griddle or a large heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot enough to make drops of water scatter over its surface, then brush with oil. Working in batches and using a 1/4-cup measure filled halfway, pour batter onto griddle and cook, turning over once, until golden, about 2 minutes per batch. Transfer to a heatproof plate and keep warm, covered, in oven. 
    Dried Fruit Buttermilk Scones
    But what if you want a breakfast you can take on the go? This scone recipe is easy and full of vanilla flavor. The original recipe from Gourmet's March 1999 issue called for Dried Sour Cherries but I decided to substitute some dried Plums I already had in my pantry. Still had great flavor, you could also use Dried Apricots or fresh strawberries or blueberries. Before making them I considered adding some citrus zest or spices but I'm glad I stuck to the recipe as the vanilla and brown sugar in the dough and the turbindo sugar on top were all the flavor they needed. I did find the dough to be really sticky right as it came together so I used quite a bit of all purpose flour on my hands to knead it together. The scones were nice and moist in the end so no need to be concerned.

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk plus 1/4 cup for brushing the scones 

  • 1 large egg 

  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar 

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising) 

  • 1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder 

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 

  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits 

  • 1/2 cup dried fruit of your choice

  • granulated sugar for sprinkling

  • In a bowl whisk together 1/2 cup of the buttermilk, the egg, the brown sugar, and the vanilla until the mixture is combined well. In another bowl stir together the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, and the salt and blend in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the fruit and the buttermilk mixture with a fork until the mixture just forms a sticky but manageable dough. Knead the dough gently for 30 seconds on a lightly floured surface, pat it into a 3/4-inch-thick round, (I chose to wrap it in plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for a little while at this point, you can do this the evening before you want to serve them if you'd like!) and cut it into 8 wedges. On an ungreased baking sheet brush the wedges with the remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk and sprinkle them with the granulated sugar. Bake the scones in the middle of a preheated 400°F. oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until they are golden.

    I hope these recipes come in handy the next time you are stuck with a half carton of buttermilk in your fridge! If you want to make them all 1 quart should be enough to make everything!


    1. Omg...Wow Jenny! It all looks so yummy. I may need to review this next time I buy buttermilk for a recipe :-)

    2. Thank you so much for packing some up for the family, Jen! It was all delicious... we enjoyed everything so much!

    3. Hi Jenny!
      Good job on the Blog. I have started my own life blog about Fitness, food and technology. Do you have any advice moving forward on how you improve readership?

    4. I've being working on this blog for a year but I still have so much to learn about all that! For me so far posting my entries on facebook is a big draw but ofcourse that limits to just my friends. Word of mouth as well. Since my stuff is food based my next sort of "action item" is to improve the photography on my entries so I can get them included in some of the compilation sites like foodgawker etc.which will hopefully get me some unique click throughs. A lot is SEO. I've had a few entries that were huge draws just because they were a topic a lot of people search for (my biggest article ever? my review of the AT&T Ball park Crazy Crab Sandwich. no joke. people search for info about it all the time) the link to your blog isn't working could you send me a new one? I'd love to follow!

    5. I love having a quart of buttermilk in my fridge, because I don't normally keep milk on hand, and you can often use the buttermilk in a recipe that calls for milk. It makes great cornbread! (, and a variant on food52 -- I'm susan g). You may have to add some baking soda to adjust for the acidity. The buttermilk keeps very well, so I don't feel any pressure to use it up right away. Nice post, nice blog, happy to find you (via food52).

      1. Thanks so much for the comment Susan! I can't wait to try the cornbread!