Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Summer Squash with Whipped Brown Butter

In August I headed to Tybee Island, Georgia with my son Sam and his girlfriend Annabel's family. We stayed in a house on the salt-marsh that faced the sunset. Egrets and pelicans flew by. I shared a room with Sam, who tip-toed in from Annabel's room at dawn- a charade in honor of A'bel's father (ha! James are you reading this?) I was a bit on edge as if I were meeting the in-laws (except we're talking high-school sweethearts.)     

The day we flew down I chipped a tooth on a frozen salted caramel and first thing I had to do was find a local dentist and then we planned was to rent bikes and ashamed as I am to admit, I don't know how to ride a bike and so I was stressing, feeling like a high maintenance ninny.

         Wa la! I rented a trike!

Tybee is beautiful with radical tide shifts. At low tide you could walk a mile into the sea. It was shell-less, and there were sink holes and tidal pools, some deep enough to swim. Tiny sea worms burrowed leaving patterns in the sand. I lucked out and found one perfect sand dollar-- a reward for braving the eerie emptiness.  

One day we wandered around Savannah, which is around a half hour from the island and had lunch at Mrs. Wilkes’ Boarding House  Mrs. Wilkes passed away at 95 in 2002, but she ran the place for 55 years. Famous for her fried chicken and biscuits with cane syrup, what I fell in love with was a slow cooked mashed summer squash. Many of her recipes are on-line, but not the squash. I think the key is butter. 

squash is in the foreground- there was also creamed corn, mac-n-cheese,
mashed potatoes, rice, stewed turnips, braised greens, and butter beans, to name a few!

Slow-cooked Summer Squash with Whipped Brown Butter
Trim stem and root ends from half a dozen yellow summer squash then roughly chop and put in a saucepan with a tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook over a low flame, stirring now and again to prevent scorching, until the squash is mashable tender. Take off the lid and continue cooking to evaporate the squash water and to intensify the flavor. Stir in a spoon or two of whipped brown butter and salt and pepper, mashing as you stir.  

Whipped Brown Butter
Simmer 2 sticks of unsalted butter in a small saucepan over low heat until butter turns the color of weak coffee. It’ll take a long time- 30-40 minutes. Keep an eye on it because it can burn.  What’s happening is the milk solids are caramelizing and imparting a nutty sweetness to the butter. Spoon off any white foam from the surface. Pour into a container and chill till it reaches room temperature.
With a mixer, whip one stick of plain butter, then add the chilled brown butter. Whip until aerated and fluffy.  This can stay covered in the refrigerator for several weeks. Use by the spoonful to flavor vegetables. 

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