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Five Awesome Uses for Buttermilk

Until recently, I’m not sure I’d have been able to articulate exactly what buttermilk is. (I’m reminded of Winona Ryder’s character in Reality Bites who, when asked in a job interview to define irony, said: “I know it when I see it!”) For the record: Buttermilk was the liquid left behind after butter was churned from milk back in the days when butter was made that way; today, it’s made by adding special bacteria to low-fat milk. The result of either process (and if you can find “real” old-fashioned buttermilk, like I can at a local dairy, so much the better) is a thick, glossy, incredibly tangy product.  I have a favorite chocolate cake that calls for buttermilk, and I make it often, and thus I have spare buttermilk on hand…and so I’ve had to figure out not only what it is but how to use it beyond baking. And here’s a list of the top five ways.

Buttermilk is great for:

1. Marinating chicken: It’s much better than regular milk because of the tangy flavor, which the chicken soaks right up. Try it the next time you make oven-fried chicken or chicken nuggets.

2. Salad dressing: Everyone’s heard of buttermilk ranch dressing, which is addictive and delicious,  but you can also add a tablespoon or two of buttermilk to a favorite basic vinaigrette and it changes up things in a most delightful way. Trust me.

3. Smoothies: Buttermilk is an excellent bridge between the usual yogurt-milk combo you’re probably already throwing in there, and it adds both a thickness and a richness to the fruity flavors. It’s especially good in banana-based smoothies. I like this one.

4. Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt: Both are greatly enhanced by buttermilk’s depth. The flavor is a bit more tart than that of conventional yogurt, and the body is equal to that of heavy cream. Try it in this killer peach frozen yogurt or in the decadent mint chocolate chip ice cream.

5. Mashed potatoes: Both mashed and twice-baked potatoes are excellent when you add a little buttermilk in place of the milk or sour cream that you probably usually go for because its flavor is so naturally creamy.

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