Saturday, August 20, 2011

Butter in Italian cooking

It is a gross over-simplification to say that Italians only use olive oil as their cooking fat. They use other oils and fats, and of course they also use butter (burro, not to be confused with the Spanish donkey). The butter they use is unsalted.

As a rule of thumb, butter is used more in Northern Italian cooking. A good compromise, for health reasons, might be to use half olive oil and half butter. This way you also get the benefit of a relatively high burning point. Butter alone will easily reach the burning point, which is pesky.

For an optimal risotto, I would suggest butter only. This will improve your chances of getting the highly sought-after risotto all'onda, where the mound of risotto on the plate will slide when the plate is tilted.

I would not buy imported Italian butter,there is nothing special about it. Even when I was living in Italy, I actually looked for imported German butter; lacking that, I would try for the butter from the German-speaking region of Alto-Adige.

If you're unused to unsalted butter, give it a try for a few weeks. American-made Land o' Lakes is fine, as is the more expensive Danish Lurpak.

Whatever you do, avoid margarine and butter substitutes. Use less fat overall, but make it real.