Let’s Talk Food: Buttermilk, an essential ingredient

I always have buttermilk in my refrigerator, as it is a very necessary ingredient in making waffles. But recently I found it difficult to find it at the markets.

It is made locally at the Hilo Meadow Gold facility, and they seem to be having problems producing buttermilk.

It is not made of butter, so why it is named buttermilk is a mystery. It was created in the 1920s and was first the liquid after churning butter out of cultured cream. Today it is made by adding lactic acid bacteria to low fat milk. This action ferments the milk to produce buttermilk.

Plain kefir is a good substitute, or 3/4 cup milk plus 1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream, or 2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice and wait for it to coagulate … but it is the last resort.

Milk with yogurt or sour cream to thicken are better choices.

Many recipes for waffles and pancakes call for buttermilk as an ingredient. It is crucial because buttermilk and baking soda creates a light, moist and tender texture because its acidity activates the baking soda in recipes and acts as a rising agent. This reaction would not occur with just sweet cream and baking powder.

My Saturday morning waffle recipe, as it is Quentin’s favorite, is this, using buttermilk:

Saturday Morning Waffles at the Wilsons

Makes: 3 double or 6 single waffles

In a small bowl, add:

1/4 cup cornstarch

3/4 cup flour (I used gluten-free flour)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

In a 2-cup measuring cup, add:

1 cup low fat buttermilk

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place in a small container:

1 egg white

Place egg yolk in buttermilk mixture, mix to combine the yolk into the buttermilk. Beat egg white till stiff (I use a stick blender with a whipping attachment). Set aside.

Mix buttermilk mixture into dry ingredients. Mix just until mixed; do not overmix. Gently fold in beaten egg whites.

Spray waffle maker with cooking spray. Scoop in enough batter to fill but not overfill (use one-third of batter).

I love my All-Clad Belgium waffle maker. There are six browning settings and when the waffles are done, it beeps and the green light turns on, so you never have to worry about overcooking.

• • •

My go-to cornbread recipe also uses buttermilk as an ingredient.

My Favorite Cornbread

Serves: 6

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray an 8-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Whisk together in a medium bowl:

1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour

1 cup cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

Mix in a medium bowl:

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed

1 cup low fat buttermilk

2 large eggs

1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just moistened. Pour batter into the prepared 8-inch pan, smooth the surface with rubber spatula and bake until golden brown, 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, cut into 9 pieces.

• • •

This spicy buttermilk fried chicken used to be served at East Coast Grill, which closed in January 2017, but owners Joy and Romano opened Highland Fried in Cambridge, Mass., focusing on fried chicken.

East Coast Grill Spicy Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Serves: 4

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons hot sauce

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cornmeal

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper

2 tablespoons fresh mixed herbs such as parsley, oregano or thyme, or 2 teaspoons dried

1 quart vegetable oil for frying

Clean chicken breast, removing fat and tendons. Cut into 2-inch wide strips. Mix buttermilk and hot sauce in a large bowl, add chicken pieces and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Combine flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper and herbs in a paper or Ziploc bag. Remove chicken pieces from marinade and immediately shake in seasoned flour. Fry chicken uncovered for about 4 minutes in oil that has been preheated to 350 degrees.

Turn the pieces after 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve.

Foodie notes

Hawaii Community College Culinary Program’s The Bamboo Hale is closed this week. But next week, April 13-15, will feature foods of France. The Bamboo Hale is open for takeout only.

Lunches are $15 for entree, appetizer, salad or soup, dessert and fresh bread with compound butter.

Call 934-2591 to place your order. Pick up is from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday.

The schedule through the end of the semester is as follows:

• April 13-15: France special.

• April 20-22: European and Italy special.

• April 23-24: Closed.

• April 27-29: European and Germany.

Please support the culinary students and place your orders for lunch.

• • •

Located at 75-5742 Kuakini Highway in Kailua-Kona is Shimaichi Sushi. Highly recommended by sushi chef Roy Kaneko, I found everything we ordered to be delicious.

We had the green bean crunchies (green beans in a light tempura batter drizzled with a honey garlic miso sauce); chirashi bowl with wonderful fresh seafood, uni and tobiko; spider roll with soft shell crab; hamachi tempura; and the grandchildren had the keiki meal chicken karaage.

My son, Dean, and I are terribly critical when we go out to eat and analyze everything, good and bad. Every dish we had was executed perfectly and the flavors matched up perfectly.

Call 747-0152 for reservations, as it is not a large restaurant. Shimaichi Sushi is open 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. for lunch and 4-7 p.m. for dinner Tuesday through Saturday and closed Sunday and Monday.

Email Audrey Wilson at [email protected]