This Monday we are going to learn two essentials to up your kitchen cred. The first will be more commonly used, clarified butter. The second is purely for showing off to your friends and family, knife cuts.
Meet your new refrigerator staple: clarified butter. Clarified butter is butter without the milk solids, which raises its smoke point. A smoke point is how hot a fat can cook before it begins to smoke or burn. Generally speaking, the lighter the fat or oil, the higher smoke point it has. So something like vegetable oil cooks hotter than extra virgin olive oil. Here is a quick reference guide for your most commonly used oils and fats.
Whole Butter >250°
Clarified Butter >330°
Vegetable Oil > 450°
EVOO > 420°
Vegetable Shortening > 370°
Lard > 375°
How do you make clarified butter? Grab a box (1lb.) of butter, a small pot, a large spoon, and a little bowl for your milk solids. A pound of butter yields about 12oz. of clarified butter, which will last you for months in the fridge, depending on how often you use it of course.
Put all of the butter in the pot and heat it over very low heat. Let all of the butter melt and you’ll begin to see tiny champagne bubbles carrying small white globs to the surface; those are your milk solids. As they rise to the top, depouillage (day-poy-aje) aka a fancy French term for skim the top of your product with a spoon. Gently scrape the milk solids off the top of the melted butter and put it in the small bowl, to reserve (I’ll tell you why later in this post).
Continue to do this until it is completely free of milk solids. Be patient because it will take a while and if you turn your burner up too high, you’ll brown or even burn your butter. When it’s done, strain it through a cheese cloth and refrigerate.
If you’re dying to take it a step further, or need a higher smoke point, you can use your clarified butter to make fortified butter. Fortified butter is 50% clarified butter and 50% oil. Pro tip: Fortified butter is the best for fried eggs and omelets.
Alright, get your snooty hair flip ready ‘cause you’re about to learn the knife cuts and impress all your friends. Worst case you’ll bang your head into a wall out of frustration and then make yourself mashed potatoes to get yourself back up to zero.
There are 4 main knife cuts that I’m going to talk about here. There are many more but we aren’t there yet and for everyone’s sanity, probably won’t get there. The 4 cuts are Batonnet, Macedoine, Julienne, and Brunoise. And phonetically in your best French accent: Bat-on-nay, Mass-a-dwon, Julie-enn, and Brune-wahz.
Batonnet is ¼” x ¼” x 2”
Think of a baton for this cut. This is my absolute least favorite cut and insights the most anger for me because it’s so easy to see where you messed up.
Macedoine is ¼” x ¼” x ¼”
This is the cubed version of a batonnet, still pretty frustrating.
Julienne is ⅛” x ⅛” x 2”
Julienne is easy to remember because it sounds like a models name. And models are tall and skinny.
Brunoise is ⅛” x ⅛” x ⅛”
The Brunoise is the cubed version of Julienne. Think of a little guy named Bruno following her around.
This is the method for all vegetables, potatoes are just easy to cut. Things are about to get starchy. Wash and peel your potatoes. Store in water if not in use. First you’re going to square off your potatoes. Cut off the ends and then slice off the rounded sides to create a block.
Slice down the potato, length-wise, keeping your knife straight up and down. Be sure you know what size cut you’re aiming for because this cut dictates the width of the other cuts you’ll make. It will create a rectangular “sheet” for you to then cut rods for your Batonnet or Julienne, and if you want to cube them, continue cutting small blocks.
Pro Tip: Do this with wine. Or tequila.
So now you have SO MANY POTATOES. Well, your thighs may not be happy but your tummy sure will be. Make some mashed potatoes to congratulate yourself on maintaining your sanity and be sure you mix in all of those milk solids you saved from your clarified butter. They will be the creamiest little bites of sanity you ever tasted.