The Buzz on Buttermilk

Have you heard the buzz on buttermilk? Zero Restaurant’s Chef Vinson Petrillo is sharing his culinary expertise on this innovative ingredient. Buttermilk, a fermented dairy product, is on the rise as one of the freshest culinary trends. It is praised for both super versatile in sweet and savory dishes, and also super sustainable! The best part? It’s so simple to make, check out Chef Vinson’s recipe for traditional and aerated versions.  Read on to learn how Chef uses this Southern staple to elevate traditional dishes to sublime fine dining.

1. Where did your interest in buttermilk begin?

After staging at Dragshlom Slot in Denmark and eating at a lot of great restaurants like Relae and Gist. Unlike the US, chefs in Denmark don’t waste anything. Especially the acidic good stuff left over from making cultured butter. They would caramelize it with a little yogurt and cream, use it to ferment vegetables, use it as a cooking liquid. After that I was hooked.

2. How do you incorporate buttermilk into your own culinary creations?

Once I returned from Denmark I became the Chef at Zero Restaurant. Buttermilk was still fresh in my mind. I’ve had a signature dish called the potted plant since almost day 1. We make our own cultured butter with cream and kefir. After we make the butter we have the delicious, funky acidic liquid left over. We will also make a quick buttermilk with milk, citric acid and lemon juice. We season it with grated horseradish and split it with tarragon or nasturtium oil.

3. Any advice for buttermilk beginners?

Don’t be afraid of it! It’s strong flavor balances really well with fatty fish like salmon or mackerel. Buttermilk panna cotta with berries is great as well. It works in savory or sweet applications.

4. What pairs best with buttermilk?

I really like to pair buttermilk with fatty fish. The acid cuts through the fat and leaves a pleasant flavor in your mouth. Usually smoked, pickled, herbaceous ingredients will accompany the fish leading to very big flavors.

5. What’s been your favorite use of the buttermilk trend?

One of the more innovative ways we use the buttermilk is to make the simple buttermilk and mix with horseradish and purée. We strain the horseradish solids out and put into a whip cream canister. Then we put the aerated buttermilk into liquid nitrogen and blend to make a buttermilk snow. This gets served with beets or raw fish.

6. Where can we find buttermilk on the Zero Restaurant Menu?

The salmon dish on our tasting menu looks so simple but has so many contributing flavors. The salmon is cleaned then brined for 1 hour in 18% salt to water. Then it is smoked at 150 degrees for about 1 hour glazed in sorghum during the cooking process. The salmon has the texture of butter and is just barely cooked enough. For this dish we make a simple buttermilk with Milk, citric acid and lemon juice and lots of grated horseradish. Pickled pearl onion petals, Fresh watercress and tarragon oil. For texture we slice multigrain paper thin, brush it with butter and cook on the back of a sheet tray until crisp.

7. How do you come up with your recipes?

We really don’t use recipes in the restaurant, the menu changes about 30% a week and we try to never make that dish again. That said we will keep working on the dish, elevating techniques, tweaking flavors and once we think it’s as good as it can be we usually take it off.

Food for Thought
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