Butter Pines

by Alison Wonderland Tucker
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butter-1.jpgA few years ago I started a poll on Facebook. I wanted to know what possessions make people feel wealthy that aren’t expensive or fancy. Like toilet paper. When I have ample rolls of toilet paper I feel strangely satisfied. And pens. When I have a lot of pens I feel very, very rich in a weird way. I just love to not have to go searching high and low for them. I like bundles of them in the office and kitchen and living room and a few in the bedroom even. I know it’s weird. I know.

The thing that always makes me feel rich in the kitchen is butter. When I have copious amounts of butter I feel that anything is possible.

A month ago Shannon and I took a short road trip down to North Carolina. He has two grand-aunts in Southern Pines that he hadn’t seen in years and felt like reconnecting with. I was a little reluctant because I would be addressing two of my biggest fears – elderly relatives of boyfriends and my belief that all relationships end on long road trips. I’m happy to report neither of my fears came to fruition. In actuality, Shannon’s grand-aunts are about as adorable a pair as I’ve ever met; little and feisty with high pitched, low toned drawls that made me chuckle every time they said anything.

On our last morning before the long drive home, they took us out to breakfast at a cute southern diner about a block from our motel. I saw Shannon’s eyes widen when he saw “real southern biscuits and gravy” on the specials board.

We were taken to our table by a round teen who sighed as she plopped the menus down.

“Coffee?” Another sigh.

“Yes please!” we all responded and she loped off to fetch the round. The menu was pretty standard fare coffee shop items. This meal wasn’t about the food as much as saying goodbye to my new friends, but we had about 10 hours of driving in front of us and a decent breakfast would give us a nice push. Our waitress returned with our coffees and struggled to find enough spirit to whine through the specials. She looked at the ceiling the whole time to accentuate her boredom and then asked if we were ready to order.

One of Shannon’s aunts said “OK, sweetie, I need to ask you a question before I place my order.” (Eye roll.) “Do you have any real butter available?” She pointed to the basket on the table filled with plastic tubs of margarine. “I just don’t want to order pancakes if I can’t have real butter on them.”

“Ma’am, we do not. This is what we have ma’am. This.” And she jiggled the basket of butter subs.

“Well, can you just ask the kitchen if they can put some butter on a plate for us? Please?” I retorted with a fake smile. Big city chef girl gonna get this taken care of, I thought to myself.

butter.jpgSigh. “Hold on.” And she walked, slower than anyone I’ve ever seen, back to the kitchen.

“This happened the last time too. They just don’t have butter I guess.” His aunt said managing to keep her cool better than myself and making me smile by doing so.

Our waitress returned. “No ma’am, no butter. Just this. You ready to order now?”

No butter.

IN THE WHOLE RESTAURANT.

I felt like we should run… fast… away from this place with only butter substitutes and we should never speak of it again. I had an image in my mind of some cheap bastard trying this in New York- only to be met with angry villagers rising up to burn the butterless palace to the ground. I think it would burn even faster with all that margarine in it.

The meal, of course, was terrible. Shannon’s biscuits were tasteless and dry and his gravy was gray and plasticized. It lay upon his chicken fried steak motionless and heavy- like a murky melted crayon. We walked out of there feeling poisoned and broken – slithering slowly out the door with the same gusto as our young rotund waitress.

When we got home from our trip I ran to the fridge. Sticks and sticks were stacked upon each other like Lincoln Logs in the butter compartment. I grinned ear to ear. “Wealthy in butter” is what my tombstone should say.

Here is an incredible way to start your day and something that would be impossible to create properly with any butter replacement. It is based on Nancy Silverton’s recipe with a few alterations. They are so scrumptious they never last long but they’re not that much work and are a genius addition to any breakfast, brunch or tea.

Ginger Scones

Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
11 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whipping cream
2/3 cup diced crystallized ginger

Preparation:
1) Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly butter baking sheet or cover in parchment.

2) Blend flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, ground ginger and lemon peel in processor. Add butter and cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal.

3) Transfer mixture to large bowl. Make well in center; add 3/4 cup cream. Using fork, stir until just moist. Mix in ginger.

4) Transfer dough to floured surface and gently knead until smooth, about 8 turns.

5) Divide dough in half; pat each portion into 3/4-inch-thick round. Cut each round into 6 wedges and transfer to prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Brush tops with remaining 2 tablespoons cream.

6) Bake scones until light brown, about 18 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool completely. Store in airtight container at room temperature. Rewarm in 350°F oven before serving.)

 

Alison Wonderland Tucker is a chef and caterer who lives and works in New York City. She writes about her love of food and life as a chef on her blog A Wonderland of Words.   

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