My first encounter with buttermilk was when I first saw the 1973 version of Charlotte’s Web (the only version I will ever recognize as far as I’m concerned!) and before
the big fair, they make a big fuss about bathing Wilbur in fresh buttermilk. As a kid I was thrilled to hear there was a milk that probably tasted sweet and deliciously rich like butter, so I insisted my mom buy some when I spotted it at the store so that I could taste it for myself. What a disappointment! Just like my mom said, it was not what I expected, thick and somewhat creamy, but sour so I have never bought it again since.
Whenever I saw recipes utilizing buttermilk, I just wrote them off because I never happened to have buttermilk handy. Then after a client told me about her success with buttermilk-brined thenroasted chicken, I was intrigued.
Sure, I had been using a salt water brine for my chicken for years after reading the method outlined in Melissa Joulwan’s Well Fed, one of my all-time favorite cook books. But when I started to see more and more buttermilk brine recipes, I thought I should experiment for myself.
I tried this really simple Epicurious recipe and just let a whole chicken hangout in a bag with buttermilk and plenty of Himalayan sea salt overnight, then roasted it the next day along with some onions and fennel. Honestly, it turned out pretty darn good! Juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside, I decided I’m a fan.
Since the oven was already on, I roasted some carrots to serve with the chicken, tossed the roasted fennel and onion in fresh parsley, lemon, and garlic, and made a mustard vinaigrette dressing and honey almonds to serve on a light butter lettuce and radicchio salad which helped brighten up and balance the meal.
No food goes to waste in my house so because I had extra buttermilk, I decided to try marinating some pork chops for just a couple of hours and holy smokes, another win!
I had a bunch of fresh herbs from Thanksgiving leftover so I made a lemon, caper, and parsley butter sauce to top the pork and served with sides of roasted rosemary parsnip chips and garlicky sauteed leeks and Brussels sprouts, plus some quick-fried sage to garnish.
I STILL had some buttermilk left and I have to say that I was really excited about this recipe I found for buttermilk buckwheat pancakes from Cookie & Kate.
I often use buckwheat flour for baked goods like crepes, pancakes, or muffins because not only is it super high in protein (24 grams per cup), but it’s related to rhubarb and sorrel making it a suitable substitute for grains for people who are sensitive to wheat or other gluten-containing grains. It has a very distinct, earthy flavor that I like but notice that whenever I make baked goods using buckwheat, they have a pretty dense texture.
This is where buttermilk made a HUGE difference. I made half the batch of pancakes using the last of the buttermilk and they turned out super light and fluffy which I think is the point and now I understand why buttermilk is a super common ingredient in baking.
Pictured here are my buttermilk buckwheat cakes topped with a quick blueberry-lemon-ginger compote. So good!
I know I sound like a crazy person when I say I’m changed forever because I just discovered buttermilk for the first time.
Has this ever happened to you? That AHA! moment when you finally get it? Please share when you’ve tried something new and it all just clicked and definitely share if you have any favorite buttermilk recipes. With so much success from just 1 carton, I’m all ears for any of YOUR favorites!