Paula Cramer attempting to get a crust on her barbecue. Photo by Karen K Boughton

Yes, some foods you do want to burn: crème brulée's caramelized sugar topping, barbecued beef brisket burnt ends, marshmallows on a stick over an open fire, and sometimes even butter for spaghetti!

Recently I burnt the roux for my gumbo. And no, it was not intentional. I was at out daughter Lorie’s house making my famous after-Thanksgiving gumbo and while prepping the meat, I sliced my finger with my favorite knife, an exceptionally nice, really sharp Heinkel knife. Yes even I, from time to time, cut myself while cooking. Now my gumbo is my husband’s favorite after-Thanksgiving dish and I think he was almost as concerned about not getting his annual turkey gumbo as he was about the condition of my finger. During my ride to the hospital emergency room, I frantically called my daughter to put all the gumbo fixin's on hold and save them in the fridge. All but the roux; she had turned it off as we walked out the door, and that, of course, had to be thrown out!

Once at the hospital, I informed the triage nurse that it was a really deep and big cut to my index finger. She didn’t even unwrap it; she just took me immediately to an examination room. There the physician's assistant unwrapped and washed it and commented on how nice and clean the incision was. It seems he was a former student in New York at the Culinary Institute of America. He even asked what brand of knife I used and complimented my choice of knives and the clean incision I managed to make. Forty-five minutes, five stitches, three x-rays and a huge splint later, I was on my way back to my daughter’s house.

You are probably asking …What does this have to do with burnt food? Well, the next day, I was on pain pills, a bit woozy and now only had one hand to make the gumbo. My hubby stepped up and gave me a hand or two in the kitchen as my “sous chef” and we attempted again to make the gumbo. This time he did all the chopping. All was going fine but quite suddenly there was an unpleasant aroma in the kitchen that I immediately recognized coming from the gumbo pot. Ugh, yes, we burned the roux. Oh, my gosh! Now I was determined. I said, “That’s it… We are going to do this one more time. Heck, third times the charm, right?”

Well, third time was the charm and our after-Thanksgiving turkey gumbo tradition was saved.

I can just see y’all shaking your heads, but admit it, you have burned a dish or two, right? So with that said, “Please Join My Table” as we dine on intentionally burnt foods! Let’s start with my favorite barbecue sandwich, made with brisket burnt ends. They are the chunks of the point end of a smoked brisket that are double smoked. They will then have a yummy, crunchy bark as well as a tender, juicy center.

Burnt Ends Brisket

INGREDIENTS

1 point of a whole brisket
Barbecue sauce, your choice (Texas Q is my favorite)
Cole slaw
Buns
Pickles
Onions

DIRECTIONS: First you need to smoke a brisket or buy one from a local grill master chef (think Chef David Welch or Sloan Rinaldi) or get one pre-made at the grocery store. Since it is just burnt ends we are after, cut off the point and save the rest of the brisket for later. Smoke/grill the point again over extra low coals 1-2 hours to burn down the fat a bit more and develop that recognizable, delicious crunch we are after. Remove from the grill, let set 5 minutes. Chop into cubes and serve on buns with pickles, onions and barbecue sauce.

This is my favorite way to enjoy spaghetti…With burnt butter!

My Burnt Butter Spaghetti with Greek Mizithra Cheese

INGREDIENTS: 1 cup butter, 2 sticks (I use sweet unsalted)
1 1/4 cup mizithra cheese
1 tablespoon dried Greek oregano
2 teaspoons minced garlic, optional 1 tablespoon fresh Greek oregano or parsley for garnish
12-16 ounces of your pasta of choice (recommended is angel hair)
Note: If mizithra is not available, a blend of ricotta salata (hard ricotta) and Romano works well.

DIRECTIONS: Cut the two sticks of butter into 8-10 pieces and place in a 2-quart saucepan. Place the pan of butter on a burner on medium heat. Bring butter to a slow boil; this will take 4-6 minutes. Once the butter begins to boil, stir constantly to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. As the butter cooks, it will foam and rise. Continue stirring, otherwise the butter foam could overflow (about 5 minutes) and catch fire. When the butter has stopped foaming and rising, continue to cook it until it becomes golden or amber in color (about 1 to 3 minutes). It will have a pleasant caramel aroma. Turn off the heat and remove the pan from burner. Let the sediment settle to the bottom of the pan for a few minutes. Pour the brown butter through a strainer into a small bowl. Add the chopped garlic to the bowl of hot butter at this time. To the bowl of browned butter add the dried oregano. Set aside. Cook the spaghetti/pasta of choice according to package directions until al dente. Drain the pasta and divide it into four bowls. Sprinkle 1/4 of the mizithra cheese over each pasta serving. Top with 1/4 cup of hot brown butter; add fresh ground pepper to taste and a bit of the fresh oregano. Serve with extra cheese and ground black pepper.
Note: sometimes when I am in a hurry, I omit the straining of the butter and at that point I will add the cooked spaghetti, garlic, cheese and oregano into the pan with the browned butter.

 

Karen Boughton
Author: Karen BoughtonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I grew up in a big, Greek, cooking family. I married my high school sweetheart and soon had three daughters. My husband and I worked in the family’s Greek restaurant, “Zorba’s,” for several years before moving to Baton Rouge and eventually Corpus Christi. There I taught microwave cooking classes for Amana.in studio and on television for three years before moving to Kingwood in the late '80s. I reached out to learn more about regional and international foods, spending 16 years in management in private athletic/dining/country clubs for ClubCorp, where I embraced health and cooking. In 2008 I joined the Tribune Newspapers as food editor, the same time that I became a nutrition advisor and USANA Health Sciences Associate. These two passions have given me better health and the freedom to live life my way.