browned butter Tag

Extra-browns Browned Butter

Not double, not triple, but ten, twenty-times of (salty) browned bits.

You’ve never known browned butter this way.  You’ll never want to know it any other way.

The other day, two hours after midnight while I was peeling through the dense jungle of Amazon’s available silicone microwave popcorn makers to be exact, something hit me like a lightening slitting down a tree.

Browned butter.

A glorious thing, absolutely.  But what is wrong with browned butter?  No, no, let me rephrase.  What is missing with browned butter?  It’s a beautiful thing that is butter made even more beautiful by letting the remaining traces of milk – an inevitable remnant from the process of making butter from cream – slowly caramelize into speckles of browned bits that, I want to argue, is the unsung hero that truly gives browned butter its celebrated nuttiness and deep, rich aroma.

So here I ask again, as attractive as is, what is missing with browned butter?

I say, not enough browned bits.

Yes, think about it!  Think about how sick browned butter could be if it is accompanied by not double, not triple, but ten, twenty-times the amount of browned bits that separates browned butter from being a component to a stand-alone, self-sufficient sauce all on its own.

Because I’m not just talking about browned bits, but salty, salty browned bits.  Relentlessly nutty to a point of almost sweet aroma storming your nasal cavity, with the saltiness bringing out all the nuance of depth and flavor that plain fat couldn’t physically carry by itself (salt can’t melt in oil), this is what I am calling Extra Browns, the late-arriving amplification of what browned butter could’ve, should’ve, would’ve been if everyone has been making it this way.  You’ve never known browned butter this way.  You’ll never want to know it any other way.

Simply add milk.  Simply add milk, my friends.


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Light.  Airy.  Delicate.  Cloud-like.

See, surely these are rules best to dictate cotton candies and runway models.

But, in my opinion, not for gnocchi.

I know, I know.  Who am I – an Asian who grew up in North America – to judge gnocchi, an inarguably Italian prerogative guarded by some very defensive if not hostile Italian grandmothers.  To some, if I am ever entitled to an opinion then it should only be on chop suey or somethin’, certainly not this heritage pasta sacredly given by the ancient Roman Gods.  Hey, I know!  I agree!, or at least I used to, which was why I never complained every time I was served with a plate of texture-less and borderline-mushy “clouds”, in Rome or Nice and etcetera might I add, and nodded in compliance like a team-player.  “Yes, Mandy.  These mashy semisolids are intentional and authentic.  Now shut up and eat them.  Gollum Gollum”.  I truly tried.

You see, close-minded it may seem, but I come from a place where any flour-involved, savory carbohydrates have to have, a chew.

Whether it’s hand-pulled xi’an noodles, the delicate wrappers of dim sum dumplings, or hand-shaped fresh pastas and whatnots, no matter.  No chew, shameful personal failure of the cook.  Doesn’t matter if it was the long-term habit that shaped my preference, or the other way around, it’s the same thing.  I just like’em chewy.

So as time went on, a quiet rebellion came when I first found out about this French” gnocchi business.  It’s a pâte à choux type of dough that yields a firmer, chewier and springy form of gnocchi, which were much more relatable and appreciated by my (ok angry nonna, I’ll say it myself) narrow-minded Asian taste-buds.  It was a vote of endorsement that said, hey there is actually a market out there for a texturally different type of gnocchi and it isn’t going to get me burnt alive on a stick in the middle of a piazza.  It was encouraging, although, not enough to push me to commit recipe-social-suicide, to turn the idea of gnocchi upside down.  Until, unfortunately, the real affirmation came a few weeks ago during one innocent gathering with friends, when one of them ever-so-harmlessly mentioned…

“I’ve never like the soft, fluffy gnocchi.  I prefer the chewier type”, he said.


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The enamel mini casseroles are a durable and very affordable selection from Dishes Only.





OK, quick post today, because I’ve got a whole day of shooting-blanks on writing something else (which, if you can imagine, is very time-consuming)(but Jaime, if you’re reading, everything’s going swell).  Today, I bring to you a wholesome and classy creation inspired by a great product, perhaps the most important humanitarian relief for all wo-mankind, that is… Activia.  Girls, you understand.  Without going further into the detailed records of accomplishment by this effective yogurt-brand, I would just like to say that the day it entered the direly needy market of China, that was a good day.

Just like any other international food brands, Activia offers different flavours depending on where it’s sold.  So I don’t know if this is available elsewhere, but here, it comes in the flavour of oatmeal and walnuts.  Weird?  No.  It is really good.  So good that I must turn it into a completely overblown and yogurt-purpose defeating extravaganza.  OK.. well.. maybe except that… I am personally not fond of biting into nuts in any form of foods, ice cream… breads, nothing.  I consider them an obstacle, like fish bones.  So the walnut has to go.  However my peeve does come with the one and only exception – pine nuts.  Pine nuts are not very nut-like, with its buttery and almost creamy texture, they don’t interrupt as much the pure pleasure of ice cream melting in my mouth, nor the soft and chewy progression of breads in between chews, nor in this case, the thick and creamy texture of a perfectly cooked oatmeal.

Oh no, not just any perfectly cooked oatmeal.  This oatmeal has two distinctive texture between soft and chewy (thanks April Bloomfield :), and that at the end of its cooking process when it gets as good as any, it’s further creamed with loads of thick Greek yogurt which adds not just body, but great flavours and a mild tanginess.  Oh wait, you thought I was just gonna throw some sad nuts over the top and call it a morning?  No, my friends, we are gonna coat these pine nuts in an almost-simple syrup, and then… and then we’re gonna fry them in a little butter.  You heard right.  This is not Paula Deen talking.  This is Brooks Headley with the James Beard thing.  So everyone just zip it.  And then since we already have that gloriously browned butter, it would be a complete shame if we don’t take a few tbsp of it, and make it a sticky sauce-thingy with honey, dark brown sugar and a good dose of salt.

See, it’s so good that I just couldn’t stop getting long and wordy with it.  OK now I really got to go.  I believe you have an oatmeal to attend to.


Serving Size: 2

Candied pine nuts are adapted from Brooks's candied pecans.


  • 1/4 cup (47 grams) pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp (25 grams) sugar
  • 2 tbsp (30 grams) water
  • 1/8 tsp ground cayenne
  • Small pinch (about 1/16 tsp) salt
  • 1 tsp turbinado/raw sugar
  • 5 tbsp (70 grams) unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 tbsp (70 grams) honey
  • 2 tbsp (24 grams) dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups (700 grams) water
  • 1 cup (123 grams) rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
  • 1 cup (75 grams) quick oats (not instant)
  • 1 scant cup (180 grams) Greek yogurt


  1. TO MAKE THE CANDIED PINE NUTS: Combine pine nuts, sugar, water, ground cayenne and salt in a small pot, then bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Cook and stir occasionally for approx 2 min, until the mixture is sticky and slightly thickened. Drain through a sieve to get rid of excess syrup, set aside.
  2. In a stainless-steel or aluminum pot (not non-stick), bring the unsalted butter from "BROWNED BUTTER HONEY" to a boil over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and stir gently with a fork to disperse. Keep swirling the pot during frying, until the pine nuts turn golden browned (any further they will be bitter). Drain immediately through a fine sieve, and reserve the butter. During the cooking process, the mixture will be filled with alarming burnt bits, but don't freak out. They will mostly stick to the side of the pot. Toss the fried pine nuts with turbinado sugar and another pinch of salt.
  3. TO MAKE THE BROWNED BUTTER HONEY: Discard 1/2 of the butter and leave the rest in the pot. Add honey, dark brown sugar, water and salt, then bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stirring constantly, and cook for 30 seconds until the ingredients have fully melted. Set aside.
  4. TO MAKE THE GREAK YOGURT OATMEAL: Combine water, rolled oats and sugar, then bring to a gentle boil. Cook for 5~7 min until soft, then add the quick oats, and cook for another 5~6 min. The mixture should be quite thick. Stir in the Greek yogurt, then cook only until heated through. Do not boil the yogurt. You can thin out the oatmeal with a bit of milk to your liking.
  5. Serve immediately with a good ladle of browned butter honey (may need to be reheated slightly to loosen), and sprinkle with candied pine nuts.





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Tough Crowd Longan Cake

black sugar longan cake featured header


I’m always puzzled where people get their optimism from. I have this friend. She’s a walking team of cheerleaders in a single unit, comes with flowers and sunshine with balloons and all that stuff. If you feel like a worthless piece of sxxt, I’d have you call her so you can feel like a brand new piece of chocolate nougat instead. Or a cat like a tiger and a chicken like a peacock… always the brighter side of life if you know what I mean. In all honesty, I’m usually extensively annoyed by such characters whom I call the self-hypnotized with false expectations. But the exception is that I ADORE her because she seems so genuinely living, breathing and walking in her bubbling enthusiasm and positivity 24/7, that even a light-sensitive vamp-downer like me can’t seem to dampen her spirit. How does she do that? She will forever be a mystery of nature to me. But hey, this is my blog and I’m only bringing her up so I can talk about myself.


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