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Saturday, December 31, 2011

As Smooth As Butter

After living in Europe and Africa for 10 years as the kid of an Army officer, my father moved our family back to the States to prepare for his Army retirement. Before the actual move, we took an extended European farewell tour as we made our way to Naples, Italy to board the U.S.S. Constitution for our trans-Atlantic journey home.. We lived out of suitcases for weeks while we country-hopped from Africa to Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Spain, and Italy. The last leg of our trip resulted in a two week stay in Rome before taking a final train ride to Naples for our Atlantic sailing. 

We stayed in an ancient crumbling hotel overlooking a piazza dotted with fountains, people, and rambling motorbikes.  By American standards, the hotel certainly would have been condemned.  It wasn't America. Situated on the edge of an old Italian piazza, our hotel was considered  a thing of beauty. We had modest accomodations with marbled floors that glistened under floor-to-ceiling windows purposely cracked open for fresh air which allowed sheer white curtains to flutter from warm gentle breezes.  Heaven.

As a nod to public safety, (and our own) we were told to stay off of the balcony. It was probably hanging onto the side of the hotel by a mere whisper of hope.  Being an inquisitive and precocious kid, I was fascinated with the off-limits balcony. How could it be forbidden territory?  It was ours, wasn't it? I stared at that damn balcony every morning, yearning to test the warnings  by jumping up and down on it with my heavy scruffed-up Buster Brown lace-up shoes. As much as I wanted to test the fates, I played by the rules and left the balcony alone.   My father was an Army Major.  There would have been hell to pay for that mischief.

We spent our days in Rome sightseeing and eating our way around the city. Although the various pastas, pizzas, and pastries were fabulous, my fondest Roman food memory was the simple butter that accompanied our morning continental breakfasts. Served at room temperature in tiny glass bowls on  linen covered trays, the butter arrived every morning surrounded by crunchy rolls and pots of jam. Sweet. Clean. Fresh. I couldn't get enough of it.

Nowadays, when Michael and I want high end European style butter, we'll simply buy Plugra, President, or Kerrygold Irish butter.  When I crave the taste of my childhood Roman holiday, I'll make butter.

A few nights ago, I caved into my craving and literally whipped up 1/2 pound of fresh soft butter.

No recipe.  I really didn't do anything.  It just happened.

Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, I whipped a pint of organic heavy whipping cream until it formed beautiful stiff peaks.  Whipped cream.  Standard.

After thoroughly wrapping the stand mixer with plastic wrap, (trust me on that) I turned the speed up to medium high and let it rip for about 25 minutes until the whipped cream broke apart and I could see splashing liquid splattering around the mixing bowl. I turned off the mixer and removed the plastic wrap.  Fresh butter dangled over a pool of residual buttermilk.  Fabulous.

After scooping the soft  butter into a chinois to drain, I squeezed it into a ball to release any additional liquid.  

I tossed the buttermilk, scraped the creamy fresh butter into an eggplant-shaped butter dish, and topped it fresh snipped chives. 

Bon Appetito!

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