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Local butter: fresh from the farm

 

Most home cooks have shelved the sheer bliss of cooking with butter, replacing the ingredient with margarine, its less-tasty cousin. Thankfully, Boston is an area filled with people who love their food local, fresh, and tasty.

A favorite destination of foodies, Russo's in Watertown features several butters, from locally-creamed to fancy-schmancy European butters. (One item that causes many to wax poetic is Amish butter, no longer stocked by Russo's, it seems.) Savenor's Market and Formaggio Kitchen are two other gourmet shops dedicated to sourcing local and exotic butters.

New England farms are dedicated to creating excellent high-quality butter: The Vermont Butter Company features a fabulous churned European-style butter that rivals French butters. Kate's of Maine churns butter in small batches, and makes enough to stock many Boston-area grocery chains such as Shaw's and Star Market. Many local area farms stock their own selections of handmade butter as well. 

Butter is the unapologetic ringmaster of many cuisines. Indian food features butter curries. That fabulous steak at your high-end steak restaurant? Seared in butter. Ethiopian kitfo is shaved rare beef sauteed in melted butter. And lobstah! ...All are made delectable by the masterful use of butter. Many foods are perfectly complemented by the full, rich texture of butter, which itself changes through the seasons, from the floral notes in spring to the sweetness of summer. Grazing habits determine the nuanced tastes of butter, so exploration of different butters is a must for any foodie.

Take a tablespoon (or two) of butter and heat it slowly over medium heat. When it has just reached its liquid form, add minced garlic and sage, basil, or thyme. Suddenly, your kitchen becomes fragrant with the aroma, and you're on your way to a browned-butter sauce. Most cooks attempt to cook butter at too high of a temperature, thus scorching it -- and the flavor. Take your sauce, after it has melded the ingredients together and the garlic has softened, and toss it over pasta for a quick dish. Or add fish, stir, and bake (and don't forget the breadcrumbs). 

Americans consume too much saturated fat, but the type of fat is all too-often tasteless, deep-fried vegetable oil (or worse: lard). Ditch the deep-fried fare and tempt your tastebuds with butter instead. And take an after-dinner walk around the neighborhood. 

 For more: Russo's, 560 Pleasant Street Watertown MA 02472, 617-923-1500
Yankee Magazine article: "New England Butter: Sweet, churned New England cream"
Amish butter from The Amish Pantry

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