Brown butter is a one-ingredient miracle that transforms the simplest staple into a silky, nutty, over-the-top sauce.
When the pale-yellow slabs melt, they begin to simmer and sputter and turn into an airy foam. Once those little browned bits drop to the bottom of the pan, you know you’ve hit the sweet spot. Here’s how to work this wonder into everything from chicken potpie to a breakfast dish.
Use this method in the following recipes, adjusting the amount of butter as needed.
1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When it boils, reduce heat to medium; simmer until foamy. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally and scraping bottom of pan, until foam subsides, butter turns golden brown with a nutty aroma, and milk solids separate into brown specks that sink to bottom, 2 to 7 minutes (depending on amount).
2. Remove from heat; immediately transfer to a heatproof bowl unless otherwise noted in recipe (butter may burn if left in hot pan). To guarantee you always have some on hand to enhance pastries, sauces and more, make a big batch of brown butter and freeze it in ice-cube trays.
The upper crust: Chicken potpie with brown-butter crust
Just when you thought you couldn’t improve on potpie, brown butter comes along and raises the bar with more flavor, more flakiness and more nuttiness than a crust has ever offered. The dough for this chicken potpie can be made and refrigerated two days ahead — and can also be frozen for up to six months (thaw completely before using).
Serves 6 to 8
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 whole chicken (3 1/2 pounds), quartered
- 2 leeks, white and pale-green parts thinly sliced (2 cups), 6 dark-green tops reserved
- 3 stalks celery, 1 halved, 2 chopped ( 3/4 cup)
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, stems removed and reserved, caps coarsely chopped
- 1/2 small butternut squash, seeded, peeled and chopped (2 1/2 cups), peelings reserved
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1/2 cup packed chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1 large egg white
1. Crust: Brown butter in a medium saucepan (see method above); let cool completely. Pour into an ice-cube tray, filling cups halfway. Freeze until cold and firm, about 1 hour. Pulse flour and salt in a food processor to combine. Add chilled brown butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with some pea-size lumps. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons ice water. Pulse until mixture just begins to hold together. (If mixture crumbles when squeezed in your hand, drizzle with 1 more tablespoon ice water and pulse a few more times.) Transfer to a piece of plastic wrap; knead just until dough holds together. Loosely cover and shape into a disk. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
2. Filling: Meanwhile, combine chicken, reserved leek tops, halved celery, mushroom stems, squash peelings and 1 tablespoon salt in a large pot. Add broth and enough water to just cover chicken. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until a thermometer inserted into thickest parts of chicken (without touching bones) registers 160 degrees, about 20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. Strain broth; reserve 2 1/2 cups (refrigerate or freeze remainder for another use).
3. Brown butter for filling in pot. Add sliced leeks, chopped celery, mushroom caps and squash; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until squash begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and thyme; cook until darkened slightly and nutty, about 2 minutes. Add wine; boil until mostly evaporated, about 30 seconds. Stir in reserved broth and bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Pull chicken from skin and bones and tear into bite-size pieces. Stir into pot with peas and parsley. Transfer to a 3-quart baking dish. (Filling can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated; stir in peas and parsley just before baking.)
4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured work surface, roll out dough to a diameter slightly larger than baking dish. Center dough over filling; trim edges to a 1/2 -inch overhang. Beat egg white with 1 teaspoon water; brush over dough. Cut vents in center. Bake until crust is golden brown and filling bubbles, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes before serving.
Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 6: 604 calories, 35 grams fat, 44 grams carbohydrates, 34 grams protein, 130 milligrams cholesterol, 259 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber, 50 percent of calories from fat.
Root for it: Lillet-and-brown-butter-glazed radishes with kohlrabi
Cooking radishes and kohlrabi in brown butter combined with an aromatic aperitif, like Lillet, turns them sweet.
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large bunch globe radishes (about 12), halved, plus leafy green tops for serving
- 1 large or 2 small kohlrabies (about 3/4 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2 -inch wedges
- 1 cup Lillet Blanc
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Brown butter in a large skillet (see method). Add radishes, kohlrabi, Lillet and 3/4 cup water. Generously season with salt and pepper. Boil, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender and liquid is reduced to a glaze that evenly coats vegetables, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl; let cool 5 minutes. Toss with radish greens; serve.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 81 calories, 6 grams fat, 4 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 16 milligrams cholesterol, 115 miligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 72 percent of calories from fat.
Morning glory: Apple-cardamom brown-butter Dutch baby
Nutty brown butter is the best companion to one of the most impressive breakfast foods you can make at home, the Dutch baby. Also called a German pancake, this delight puffs up to great heights while cooking, with the sides climbing and then reaching out over the edges of the pan. The batter can also be made in a blender: Mix the eggs until pale and frothy, then add the remaining ingredients and puree until smooth.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2/3 cup whole milk, room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 Granny Smith apple, cored, peeled and cut into 1/4 -inch wedges
- Sour cream, for serving
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees with a 10-inch cast-iron skillet on center rack. Brown butter in a saucepan. Transfer to a heatproof bowl.
2. Stir together sugar and cardamom. In a large bowl, beat eggs on medium-high until pale and frothy, about 2 minutes. Add flour, salt, milk, vanilla and 1 tablespoon cardamom sugar; beat until smooth, about 1 minute (batter will be thin).
3. Carefully remove skillet from oven. Add brown butter and apple, stirring a few times to evenly coat. Spread apple into a single layer; pour batter into skillet. Bake until puffed, crisp on top and golden brown in places, 20 to 25 minutes. Immediately sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cardamom sugar. Cut into wedges and serve, with sour cream and remaining cardamom sugar.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 321 calories, 17 grams fat, 35 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams protein, 196 milligrams cholesterol, 215 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 47 percent of calories from fat.