Butter is Better

Butter sit down for this one (pun intended). Until I turned the ripe old age of 30, I had never in my life cooked with butter.

Yep! You heard me.

Now that your shock and horror has ceased and you can stand again, let me explain.

My mother (a former dancer and therefore a former health nut) was so anti-butter that it did not even have a presence in our kitchen when I was growing up in the 80s/90s. I Can’t Believe it’s NOT Butter sat decidedly on the refrigerator shelf, pronouncing proudly from it’s little yellow package: Butter is Bad! I am Better than Butter!

Sometimes we had Country Crock, or Smart Balance, or some sort of margarine. Globs of buttery imitation substances glimmered on top our slices of ancient grain 7-seed wheat toast. Then I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter was released as a SPRAY. In college, I recall, in an attempt to cut calories, my girlfriends and I would squirt this substance on toast and top it with a Splenda. Ew.

Hellooooo chemicals! Welcome to my body!

I assume I’d probably tasted butter millions of times in restaurants on pasta, fish, and meat. But because it was banned in our house I automatically assumed it was a wicked log of heart-clogging material, so I rarely attempted to spread it on bread in a restaurant. Despite it’s universal presence outside of my childhood home, I never realized one could cook with it and STILL be healthy…until the girls in my dressing room at Avenue Q one night peered into my insanely-boring, nightly scramble. Either from the smell or simply the look of it, they wrinkled their noses at my broccoli/tofu/quinoa jumble I had sautéed in Olive Oil Spray. Then someone said, “You know, Lex, that would probably be so much better if you cooked it with butter.”

I replied that I’d never owned, never bought, and never cooked with butter. I was met with wide eyes and stunned silence. Then gasps pervaded the room! “Lexy OMG everything’s better with BUTTER!” “You don’t even put it in your EGGS?!”

I was ordered to go to Trader Joes immediately (well, after the show), buy a stick of butter and start cooking with it. Then I was to report back.

For my first experiment, I made some gluten-free pasta and melted butter on top, with a little parmesan, salt pepper, and lemon. OKAY. YUP! I could immediately taste the difference. This is what I’d been missing my whole life! Who needed a boyfriend when there was BUTTER?!? The rich, creamy, delicious butter won over my heart (in it’s potentially heart-clogging way). I began adding butter to my eggs, pasta, even gluten-free English Muffins! I then discovered Ghee (clarified butter) from my Godmother, and that also has become a condiment staple.

As I make my way through the world (and current food/gut-related issues) I have come to believe in balance (and NOT Smart Balance). I believe in making things taste delicious. I believe in whole and wholesome foods. I also believe in moderation. And butter in moderation can elevate a dish into something much more special. (And I am happy to report there is now a stick of butter in my parents refrigerator, too!)

Here’s one of my favorite (and easy!) recipes that pairs perfectly with a (NON!) buttery Chardonnay from GlenLyon Winery. ENJOY!

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Shrimp over Pasta with Parsley, Lemon, and Garlic (for two!) 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb raw shrimp (fresh if possible, we like 26/30 size)
  • 2 cups dried fusilli pasta (gluten-free for us!)
  • 1 cup of Italian parsley when stripped off stems
  • 1/2 cup Chardonnay
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp BUTTER (REAL!)
  • Shredded Parmesan (Lexy says: as much as you WANT!)

Directions (to multitask!):

  • Pour yourself a glass of Chardonnay
  • Fill a stock pot with water a bring to a boil
  • While the water boils…
    • Strip the parsley from the stems and finely chop
    • Press half the garlic through a press
    • Zest and juice the lemon
    • Combine the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, pressed garlic, chopped parsley in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper
    • Slice the other half of the garlic into thin slices; reserve for shrimp
    • Start to heat skillet over medium-high heat
    • Add the butter to the skillet, allow to melt
  • Once the water boils…
    • Salt the water, add the pasta, and start the clock (about 7 minutes for our glut)
  • Once the butter is melted and starting to sizzle…
    • Add sliced garlic to skillet, cook 30 seconds to a minute until fragrant
    • Add shrimp to skillet then leave them alone
    • Give the pasta a swirl
    • Have a sip (or two) of Chardonnay
  • After 3 minutes
    • Turn the shrimp
    • Give the pasta a swirl
    • Have a another sip (or two) of Chardonnay
  • After another 2 minutes (the shrimp should almost be done)…
    • Sprinkle as much crushed red pepper over shrimp as you want
    • Deglaze the pan by throwing in the Chardonnay with the shrimp, allow it to bubble and reduce by half for the next minute
  • While the Chardonnay is cooking down and the shrimp finishes…
    • Check the pasta (it should be done after 7 minutes)
    • Drain the pasta and return it to the stock pot
  • Now bring it all together…
    • Add the olive oil/lemon/parsley mixture to the pot
    • Add the shrimp and wine sauce from the skillet to the pot
    • Toss it all together
  • Serve with heaps of grated Parmesan cheese and a glass (or two) of Chardonnay
  • Enjoy!

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