Gee, it’s ghee!
Well finally. You may have been able to guess from my last post that I’ve been feeling flumpy lately. When you cook dangerously, you take certain risks, going for ingredients you’ve never tried – maybe they’re great, but maybe there’s a reason you haven’t tried them. I seem to have gone through a series of these flumps (I’m going to patent that word) in the last month but this time I discovered a winner. A staple. As in, a “this needs to be in your pantry,” staple, as opposed to a “who took my Swingline” staple. Office Space anyone?
Last week at our small, run-of-the-mill grocery store, I noticed “ghee,” somewhere near the butter section.
I was excited to try it, because everyone knows it’s butter made of tigers. How much more dangerous can you get than that? You’re questioning this information? Well, I didn’t check the ingredient list closely, but if you’ve ever read the kids’ book “The Boy and the Tigers,” or “The Story of Little Babaji,” or, if you’re old like me, “Little Black Sambo,” then you know what I’m talking about. The first two titles are a rebranding of the last book, which obviously had racist undertones and so was changed. At first I wondered, “Hm, change the kid from black to Indian and we’re all good?” but when I read more, the change made sense – the original story was actually set in Imperial India and it was mostly the illustrations that were offensive, so they more accurately made the kid “Babaji” or “Rajani,” and the story was preserved. I have to admit I’m glad, because otherwise future generations would have no idea that ghee is made of tigers.
And now a brief synopsis of the book for those who wonder WTH (What the Heck) I’m talking about. Babaji’s mom buys him some swanky new clothes. Babaji prances around in them in the Great Indian Outdoors, and he’s approached by a number of tigers, each one accepting something to wear in exchange for not chowing down on Babaji. In the end, Babaji is naked, and the tigers get jealous of one another and argue, chasing each other around a palm tree so fast that they turn into … drumroll … ghee!
Babaji retrieves his stuff, and his dad, penny-wise Papaji comes along and scoops up the tiger butter for Mamaji to cook with.
Babaji downs 169 of the pancakes, piggie that he is, but I guess all that tiger negotiation made him hungry.
And I guess the lesson there is, if you nearly give away all of your expensive stuff to wild animals but you get it back, make sure to celebrate in a big way.
But back to ghee. Ghee is really cool. When they can’t find a tiger, they make it by heating regular butter until the water is boiled off, and then they remove the milk solids. What you’re left with is “clarified butter,” which can actually reduce cholesterol in smaller doses. It’s lactose free for you lactoids out there, and it has stable bonds, so that it doesn’t make free radicals like heated vegetable oil does. It helps with absorption of vitamins, and aids digestion rather than slowing it like butter or other oils. It tastes and smells extra buttery – you’ll recognize the smell if you like lobster. And best of all (for you foodie cooks) it has a high “smoke point,” so that it doesn’t burn if you cook with it at higher temperatures. Yippee for ghee!
I should definitely have made pancakes with the ghee, right? Well guess what, I did! But not entirely on purpose. I searched “ghee” on one of my favourite recipe spaces, epicurious.com, and came up with a handful of recipes, including one for homemade naan bread. Although traditional naan is made in a tandoor oven, this recipe just calls for a heavy pan. Which means … pancakes! (Naan-cakes?). Here’s how it went down:
Tiger Onion Naan-cakes (Makes 10. Give yourself time)
- Four tigers, thoroughly exercised into a pulp (if unavailable, proceed with remaining ingredients)
- 3/4C whole milk
- 8g package dry yeast (1/4oz)
- 1tsp sugar
- 3 1/2C all purpose flour, plus more for de-sticking things
- 1 tsp kosher salt plus more for sprinkling
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1C whole milk yogurt (not Greek, for some reason)
- 2Tbsp melted ghee plus extra for frying
Directions: Heat milk in small saucepan until it reaches 100F. Transfer to small bowl and whisk in yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
Whisk flour with 1tsp salt in a large bowl to blend. Add yeast mix, onion, yogurt, and 2Tbsp ghee.
Mix dough until blended but shaggy. Transfer to floured work surface and knead that mofo until smooth. Add flour periodically to reduce stickiness. Do this about 5 minutes.
Grease another bowl with ghee and then roll your dough ball around in it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled for about 1 hour.
Punch it down. This is a good recipe to make if you have inner frustrations, or if a tiger just stole your stuff and you’re angry you didn’t manage to get it back. Divide into 10 pieces. Using floury hands, roll each piece into a ball. Cover and let rest 10 minutes.
Heat some ghee in a heavy skillet over med-high heat. Roll your dough into an oblong shape, as thin as you can get it, and pan fry like a pancake, about 2 minutes a side. Wrap in foil to keep warm until ready to serve.
Results: Fabulous. This recipe takes some time obviously, but the bread was chewy with that onion surprise sweetness throughout, and it was just as good the next day. It wouldn’t have had the same flavour if it hadn’t been cooked in that “healthy” buttery ghee. Ghee is my new butter, even the tiger-free variety. Rating: 5 Yums!
And on a long-delayed note, I must mention a beautiful Christmas present I got from my blog friends Joanna and Mike at midwesternbite.com.
You may recall that this year they adopted some chickens, and I won the privilege of naming Mistress Billington (she is a plymouth chicken, Mistress Billington was a famous pilgrim…). I now consider myself her Canadian mother (the chicken, not the pilgrim, she’s long dead). So the Midwestern Bite Family sent me two Christmas tree balls with some of Mistress Billington’s feathers in them. They’re super pretty, and near and dear to my heart. Aren’t the very coolest gifts ones that may not come from Tiffany’s, but that you still find yourself yelling at your kids, “Don’t TOUCH that, I will be VERY upset if you break it!!!!”
I let them hold them for a brief photo op only. It’s been great getting to know you both better this year and it brightens my day whenever I see something new from my “penpals.” Thanks!
PS I love how the note said it was from the Midwestern “Bile” family. Joanna is pregnant, so maybe the bile had to do with her heartburn?
PPS Please ignore the cupboards on the floor behind my kids, we had a pipe burst in the frigid cold while we were on vacation. Surprise reno! (I’m trying to pretend like I’m not happy about the new kitchen).