Food + Travel Writing

Travel and food writing by Christina Crisostomo. New York/Toronto-based.

Recipe: Whipped Brown Butter

More often than not, attempting to get brunch with friends in New York is a process. You wrangle your group together. You pass dozens of Yelp suggestions back and forth in an ever-growing text chain, ultimately deciding on the much-buzzed-about spot that doesn’t take reservations (of course). You wait 45 minutes to an hour for your name to be called. Someone is always late, and they won’t seat you until you’ve all arrived. Suddenly it’s 4 pm and after spending $35 on pancakes and a mimosa—okay, a few mimosas—you're left reassessing your life choices.

And yet, I embrace the process. I’m a seasoned practitioner in the ways of brunch.

But now it’s winter, and it’s going to take a lot to get me to put pants on and leave the house, especially on a cold morning. I invited friends over for brunch last weekend at my tiny New York apartment instead, served atop a makeshift coffee table composed of a free, Craigslist-sourced Ikea side table pushed up against a multi-purpose cube I took home from a fashion week event. (This is what happens when a cheap 25-year-old tries to write about "lifestyle.")

I wanted to recreate a meal I had while visiting my hometown of Toronto. Emma’s Country Kitchen is a cozy, unassuming little bakery/restaurant in a neighborhood I rarely frequent, and yes, there is a wait. But I would return again and again for its buttery biscuits, house-cured Canadian bacon, and seasonal pancake menu. Each bite of the gingerbread pancakes I tried was a literal mouthful of holiday cheer—comforting, fluffy, and packed with warm winter spices.

My attempt? Not so much. I like to rest my pancake mix before cooking to meld the flavors and allow air bubbles to form. But I forgot to add melted butter until the last minute, mixing out all of the air bubbles in the process. The pancakes turned out dense, slightly gummy, and not as assertively spiced as I hoped.

Thankfully, the geniuses at Emma’s paired their pancakes with whipped brown butter, which turned out to be quite simple to recreate. I believe you could put this whipped brown butter and maple syrup on nearly anything and it would taste amazing. Even gummy pancakes.

Whipped Brown Butter (via The Kitchn)
Yields about 3/4 cup

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste

  1. Cut the sticks of butter into small cubes, reserving one stick’s cubes in a medium heatproof bowl.
  2. Melt the other stick in a cast iron pan or heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook the butter until it starts to brown—you can check by taking a small spoonful and checking for brown flecks. The foam will subside a bit and the butter will smell “nutty.”
  3. Take it off the heat before it burns and let it cool for a few minutes. If you forget to let it cool like I did, nothing bad will happen, I promise. It just might take on more of a waxy texture than whipped.
  4. Pour over the other stick of butter in the heatproof bowl and refrigerate immediately.
  5. After the butter cools, add salt and whip in a food processor or mixer until smooth.
  6. Slather on anything and everything. Pancakes, waffles, toast, green beans, mushrooms, cauliflower, carrots, or fish all sound like good ideas to me!