Brunette bombshell

It’s the singer-dancer-actor Gene Kelly of the kitchen.  A triple threat.

Beurre noisette.

It literally means hazelnut butter.  But it’s actually just butter cooked until the solids turn a deep, burnished, amber brown, and emits a rich, nutty aroma.  It’s then seasoned and a squidge of is lemon added.  This simple sauce can be used on meats, veggies, and starches.

But even more adaptable is its root—browned butter.One of the favorite meals in our family is roadkill.  It’s not what you think, though.  I have never served flattened possum, or sunbaked squirrel.  Roadkill is our name for porcupine meatballs.  But because I have trouble making meat spheres, I make patties.  And years ago The Kid decided the pressed shape with bits of rice poking out resemble the result of animal versus auto.The best, nay, the only side dish allowed when we dine on road kill is steamed cauliflower tossed with plenty of slowly cooked, chestnut-colored butter.

In another quick change act, brown butter imbues baked goods with nutty depth.

You can replace the fat in desserts with brown butter.  For oil or melted butter, brown it and use once it’s cooled enough to not interfere with the chemistry of the recipe.For softened butter, just brown the butter and let it re-solidify, stirring occasionally to keep the browned solids dispersed.

To brown butter, melt it over medium-low.  Watching constantly, allow it to keep cooking until it foams and brown solids rise to the top.  Let them deepen to the color of bourbon.

The brown butter in the following recipe adds an almost umami-like nutty warmth to an already delicious confection.

Orange brownies

Cook Time: 30 minutes

2 cups buttered vanilla nuts

Ingredients:sugared nuts2 cups nut pieces of your choice

2 tablespoons butter

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon sugar

Empty vanilla bean pod

Put all ingredients into skillet and cook on medium-low until nuts are toasted.  Let cool.

Cake ingredients:orange brownies

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup vanilla bean brown butter, cooled to softened

4 eggs

1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, reduced to 1 tablespoon of syrup

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Innards from 1 vanilla bean

1 ½ cup prepared nuts

 Glaze:orange glaze2 cups confectioners’ sugar

¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

2 teaspoon grated orange zest

½ cup prepared nuts

Preheat oven to 350.

Grease 13X9 pan and set aside. In mixing bowl or bowl of stand mixer, stir together flour, sugar, and salt.  Add butter, eggs, orange syrup, and orange zest and beat with electric mixer until well blended. Fold in 1 1/2 cups nuts. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-28 minutes, or until light golden brown and just set. Remove from oven and pierce top of entire cake with fork.


Combine all ingredients except nuts in bowl, whisking until smooth. Pour half the glaze over hot cake. Cool cake completely then pour on rest of glaze, adding a bit more orange juice if needed to loosen. Sprinkle on the rest of the nuts. When glaze sets, cut into squares. orange glazed browniesAs good as these bars are, The Kid has a real problem with them.  It has nothing to do with flavor; they are bright, moist, and sweet, but thanks to the brown butter, not too sweet.

No, they taste great.  But The Kid cannot abide the name.  In my child’s opinion, any food called brownies have to contain chocolate and they must actually be brown.

But orangies just sounds silly, dontcha think?Thanks for your time.

Winning Black Friday

So Thanksgiving dinner has been served, eaten, and cleaned up.  Most of the relatives have gone home, and you’re reclining, semi-comatose, on the sofa.  Then Aunt Minnie from Altoona begins talking about Christmas shopping, and she Wants.To.Start.Tonight.

You’ve got a few options.

#1-Get up and toss her, Uncle Jasper, Cousin Viola, their luggage, and their 3 yappy, incontinent dogs outside, lock the door and turn off the lights.

#2-Get up, put on your shoes and jacket, and take them for 4 or 5 hours of bruising, shoulder-to-shoulder turkey night shopping.

#3-Get up, program their GPS for the best local retail Mecca, put some good music on in the kitchen, and while they’re gone get some relaxing, solitary prep done for tomorrow’s breakfast.

If you pick #3, I’ll guide you through the almost Zen-like process.  It’s simple and low-key, kind of a cool-down exercise from the earlier frenzy.

My breakfast menu consists of scrambled eggs, easy homemade hash browns, fall porridge, and awesome, delicious brown sugar pecan scones.

I made up this first recipe just this morning, for my own breakfast.  It was hella good and kept me full for hours.

Start with the hot cereal.  Any type will work, from instant oatmeal to slow-cooked grits (I used Special K Nourish).  What makes it special is this topping.  You can make fruit and cereal tonight, and heat them up in the microwave before service.

Harvest porridge

4 unpeeled pears, cored and cut into ½ inch cubes

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons maple syrup or brown sugar

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup chopped almonds

½ cup golden raisins

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat non-stick skillet and melt butter.  Put in everything except raisins and vanilla.  Cook on medium.  When the pears and almonds are browned, add raisins and vanilla, and stir ‘til hot. Spoon onto hot cereal.  Serves four.

     My dad loves them, but I never understood scones.  They’re not quite muffins, not quite biscuits.  They just seemed dry and weird.  That was before I tasted Chef Jason Cunningham’s brown sugar pecan scones at the Washington Duke (3001 Cameron Blvd, Durham).  They’re neither dry nor weird.  Flaky and tasty, these are what scones are supposed to be.  Thanks to Chef Jason for the recipe.

Make these the night before up to the refrigeration stage, and bake them off in the morning.

Brown Sugar Pecan Scones

Yield 18

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup cake flour

2/3 cup light brown sugar

2/3 cup Butter

1 Tbl baking powder

Pinch Salt

1 large egg

½ cup whipping cream

½ cup orange juice

¼ cup chopped pecans

1 Tbl vanilla extract

Combine all-purpose flour and baking powder and mix thoroughly. Reserve.

Cream butter in a stand mixer until soft. Add brown sugar, salt and vanilla and cream until fluffy.  Add eggs and beat until fully incorporated.

Add cake flour and combine and then add the orange juice. Add half of the all-purpose flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.  Add the cream, incorporate and then the remainder of the flour mixture along with the pecans.

Do not over-mix! Once all ingredients are incorporated, wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate.

Once dough is thoroughly chilled, place on a floured work surface and roll to approximately ½ inch thickness. Cut into triangles.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake approximately 12-20 minutes until golden brown.

     These hash browns are so simple you can quickly make them in the morning.  It’s the only way I make them anymore.

Homo habilis hash browns

In a non-stick skillet melt 2-3 tablespoons butter.  Grate 1 unpeeled potato per diner directly onto melting butter.  Grate in about 2 teaspoons yellow onion per potato.  Salt and toss to mix.  With spatula, flatten in pan and cook on medium until golden-amber around edges (8-10 minutes).  Put plate on top of pan and carefully flip onto plate, cooked side up.  Slide back into pan and cook other side, 6-8 minutes.  Slice into wedges, and serve.

     You can go through all this, or do what I do.  Go to someone else’s house for dinner, go home and do most of your holiday shopping online in your pajamas, then sleep in on Friday.

Good luck, and happy Thanksgiving.

Thanks for your time.