16 April 2010

The Butter Apologist

Hallo friends. Jade Sylvan here. I'm taking a break from my usual bloggy endeavors at The Broken Watch and The Boston Healing Blog to bring you the tale of an epic meal.

I love my family to the point of obsession. However, like many ambitious clans these days, we are spread out all over the country, and don't get to see each other too often.

This spring, we all got together for a joint birthday party for my dad, my brother, and my sister-in-law.

My sis-in-law Val and I decided to show off our gender-normative proclivities by cooking a flashy dinner for everyone.

The menu:
  • salmon with butter shallot sauce
  • buttered poppy seed smashed potatoes and parsnips
  • swiss chard, garlic, and shallot sauteed in butter (are we sensing a theme here?)
  • tossed salad of butter lettuce (just to keep things in the family), spinach, mung bean sprouts, slivered almonds, olives, and artichoke hearts with balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil
Tangentially, I recently had a debate with some of my friends about which was more essential, butter or cheese. I think I was the only one who said butter, and the cheese-supporters were disturbingly truculent while defending their dairy product of choice.

It's not that I have anything against cheese. I just feel that it's overused in American cuisine, oftentimes to mask the fact that a dish doesn't actually taste very good. Butter, on the other hand, enhances flavor with the smooth subtlety of a jazz accompanist. Allow me to offer this meal as my argument.

First of all, before we could do anything, we obviously needed cute aprons...

... and champagne.

That's Dad's job. Isn't he cute?

Aprons and champ donned, we were ready to do some cooking.

We had all the raw ingredients.


Potatoes and parsnips:

A bunch of veggies and a crap load of butter. [not pictured]

I'm not so great at giving recipes or cooking instructions, since my general cooking motto is "Throw a bunch of stuff together until it tastes awesome." Fortunately, my brother John, optical-physicist-cum-photographer, was there to take photos. Since a picture's worth a thousand words, I hope you can get the general gist of things by browsing through the ensuing FOOD PORN.

Just look at them glisten.

The potatoes are easy. You boil a bunch of potatoes (I used my two favorite, red and yukon gold) with a bunch of parsnips (I peel the parsnips, but not the potatoes), then when they're soft you SMASH them with a crap load of butter, cream, salt, pepper and poppy seeds.

My grandma said they were the best potatoes she's ever had in her life. She's 83. Just sayin, she's had a lot of potatoes.


This look of utter glee only graces my visage when I'm smashing something.

Then I chopped the garlic for the chard. I do this thing where I (you guessed it) SMASH the garlic clove before I peel it, which makes the whole peel come right off.


While I was doing that, Val was starting on the butter shallot sauce, which is exactly what it sounds like.

And just look at the chard.

Totally helps that my mom's cookware is gorgeous.

Oh, and somewhere in there salmon was made...

... and a salad was made...

... with Butter looking nobly on.

There was nothing left to do but dish it up...

... and serve.

No cheese necessary.


  1. yeah i'm busy trying to come up with reasons for you to make me these potatoes, but if i can't think of one be assured I'll be making them myself...

  2. They're no more work than most other mashed potatoes really. And so tasty!

  3. I'm with you on the butter vs. cheese thing. While I'm more of an olive oil kind of gal, you have to acknowledge that without butter, most of s beloved/ubiquitous baked goods would cease to exist in their familiar, crowd-pleasing forms.

  4. a) i am 100% behind the butter>cheese argument.
    b) i love a blog that incorporates the terms "truculent" and "crapload" with comparable ease.
    c) sounds delicious!



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