In How Do You Take Yours?, The Takeout solicits staff and outside expertise for secret tips on improving one dish.
If there’s any overlap to the culinary legacies of Julia Child and Paula Deen, it’s that most everything is better with butter. Margarine and various vegetable oils have waxed and waned as kitchen darlings, but O.G. butter is probably here to stay. Most cooks—professional and amateurs alike—have at least one recipe in their back pockets that is so good yet so buttery that they’d rather assemble it in private lest guests see sticks and sticks of butter fly into a saucepan. But we at The Takeout make no judgments about such foods, preferring to celebrate their deliciousness rather than fret their potential calorie counts. Please share your favorites in the comments, if you’re like-minded.
Kate Leeder, Aperitivo, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Gooey butter cake: It’s trashy in all the right ways, sweet enough to make your teeth hurt, and I love it so much. In one bowl, mix together a box of yellow cake mix, one egg, and a melted stick of butter. Press into a baking dish. In a second bowl, mix together a box of cream cheese, a box of powdered sugar and two eggs. Pour it on top of the ‘crust’ and bake! It’s always better room temp, so don’t even think about eating it until the next day.
Gerard Craft, Sardella, St. Louis
Creamy buttery semolina: This creamy semolina is great with meat, or on its own. You can use whey from cow’s milk, but I prefer the whey we get from making goat’s milk ricotta because it has more tangy flavor with a hint of funk that balances out the rich butter finish. To get started, bring your whey up to a boil in a sauce pot; we use a ratio of 6 parts whey to one part semolina. Once your whey has come up to a boil, turn the heat down a little and slowly sprinkle in the semolina while whisking. Continue whisking on medium heat for about 5 minutes. The next step is the butter: You need to add as much butter as your conscience allows, and then maybe a little more. Then add salt.
Debbie Gold, Schuba’s Tavern, Chicago
Butter-basted steak: Butter basting can be used for sautéing beef, pork, chicken, fish, vegetable, and anything else you can think to sauté in a pan. But this is the best way in my opinion to get that ribeye steak with the nice, deep caramelization on the outside and juicy tender center. It’s as simple as having these three ingredients for basting: 2 tablespoons butter, one tablespoon with 82 percent butterfat; a clove of smashed garlic; two thyme sprigs. Combine, melt, and spoon over steak until desired doneness.
Kate Bernot, The Takeout staff writer
Quarter-pound-of-butter shrimp scampi: Melt a full stick of butter in a saucepan, then add a teaspoon(ish) each of dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and mild chili powder. Throw in a crap ton of pressed garlic gloves, a glug of white wine, some parsley, a shake of paprika, salt and pepper, whatever other seasonings sound good. Throw in a pound of shrimp, and marinate overnight in the fridge. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes and spoon over pasta. Boom: Shrimp-flavored butter sauce to die for.
Jonny Hunter, Forequarter, Madison, Wisconsin
Green sauce: I’ve been doing this recipe since the fall and it’s been my go-to dinner. I take a couple of pounds of spinach, blanch it, take it out. I take the spinach, a cup of whole milk yogurt, a stick of butter, a little lemon juice, and blend it to a smooth puree. It’s really bright, rich, and give off a nice color. I do a few things with it: I roast parsnips with butter fairly hot so you get that brown butter caramelization. Then I serve the parsnips on top of it. I’d also roast oyster mushroom with melted butter, and throw it on top of this green sauce too. You can also do a variation on butter chicken—think of it as spinach in place of the tomato—and it’s really great with stewed or poached chicken.
Kevin Pang, The Takeout editor
The most famous butter recipe in the world has got to be Marcella Hazan’s pasta sauce. It uses a 28 oz. can of tomatoes (such as San Marzanos), 2/3 of a stick of butter, and one onion halved into two. You cook it over medium heat for 45 minutes, salt to taste, and remove the onions before ladling over pasta. It’s classic for a reason.