My neighborhood cheese dealer (it's an addiction), Anne, who owns the very excellent Saxelby Cheesemongers, talked me into purchasing a jug of fresh buttermilk along with my Friday evening fix. This thick, tangy milk comes from Evans Farmhouse Creamery in Norwich, New York, and is a byproduct of their fantastic butter, which is made-to-order each week.
I don’t normally cook with buttermilk, and when I do there’s usually chicken and a deep fryer involved. So I devoted my weekend cooking to recipes that would showcase it: extra-tangy buttermilk pancakes for breakfast, buttermilk-battered-and-fried clams, lemons and parsley for an snack, and Natalie Chanin’s ridiculously delicious buttermilk biscuits, to accompany a smoky clam chowder at dinner. But my favorite was the buttermilk pie I made last night during the Oscars. Similar to chess pie, this custardy dessert is popular in the South wherever there's an abundance of dairy farmers. I started with chef Robert Stehling’s recipe and made a few changes, substituting maple syrup for the sugar, eliminating the lemon juice and adding a meringue during the last 15 minutes of cooking. All of this I baked in a lard-laden crust that I made earlier in the day. (I've never had to say this before, but I think I used too much lard, though the crust would have made for a nice quiche.)
I pulled the pie out of the oven just in time to watch Martin Scorsese’s eyebrows accepting the Academy's top two awards. The result was plenty sweet but not cloying (the pie, not his speeches—those were cloying), maple-y but tart enough to still taste the buttermilk. I have a cup or two of the stuff left over. Just enough for tonight’s fried chicken.