Brooklyn favorite Buttermilk Channel is marking two coveted restaurant milestones this month: it’s 10th anniversary, and a new cookbook.
“Kindness & Salt: Recipes for the Care & Feeding of Your Friends & Neighbors” features signature recipes from the restaurant, like its fried chicken, as well as from its sister spot, French Louie.
amNewYork spoke with Ryan Angulo, 41, the co-owner and executive chef of French Louie and founding executive chef of Buttermilk Channel, about the cookbook (co-written with Doug Crowell, owner of both restaurants).
How did you and Doug meet?
Doug was opening Buttermilk Channel on Court Street. He was looking for an executive chef, and I answered a Craigslist ad that said, “Looking for a chef for an American bistro in Brooklyn.” That’s how we met. People always think that that’s a funny thing that we met through a help wanted ad on Craigslist. It seems pretty normal to me.
Do people still do Craigslist for cooking jobs?
I still place all my ads on Craigslist. That’s where I seem to have the best luck. But back 10 years ago, that was the only place you looked for a job, for a chef anyway, except for maybe StarChefs.
Once you learned more about what Doug was doing, what appealed to you?
We were pretty much on the same page as what we wanted to do. It’s Brooklyn, right, it’s a lot of families. So we wanted a menu that could appeal to people from 5-7, the families, and the menu could also appeal to people that wanted a romantic date and a special occasion. So the menu kind of encompassed all that. We were both kind of on the same page with the food. I wanted to do refined comfort food. That’s where the duck meatloaf came from. The chicken and waffles. And then just make everything else really seasonal. About five years in we started talking about opening up another restaurant together. Doug found this space up on Atlantic Avenue. I wanted to go in a French direction this time — do my take on a classic French bistro instead of an American bistro — but still that same kind of thing. You can come in with your family, you can come in with your kids. It can be experienced on different levels.
How did you decide now was a good time to do a cookbook?
Buttermilk’s been open for 10 years, it’s going to be the 10th anniversary this month, which is pretty awesome. And French Louie, it will be five years in February. So they’ve been around for a long time now. It’s a good combination of both restaurants. Some are classic Buttermilk Channel recipes. And some are ones we serve to this day at French Louie.
How did you come up with the title?
We didn’t have a title for a long time. There’s that secondary title — “Recipes for the Care & Feeding of Your Friends & Neighbors” — that one was from the beginning. I thought that was great, like, “The Proper Care & Feeding of Your Box Turtle,” like one of those books. We always had that title in our heads, but we knew it was too long. The first title came out of an essay that Doug wrote — it was just a thing that he put in there, “but what we really serve is kindness and salt.” That line became the title.
The salt aspect is funny — you have “Salt Fat Acid Heat” on Netflix, from the cookbook. It’s such an elemental thing, but not a lot of people maybe really know how to season.
There are so many different ones out there. In the restaurant alone we use a bunch of different ones. I never really thought about it until we were writing the book. So it has a little chapter on the four main salts that we use. Kosher salt we may only use for curing and for using as a bed to roast root vegetables, like beets. The Maldon we just use for finishing, you have that last little pop of salty crunch to it. The course salts we use for a couple different things — they can be used for finishing, too, but we use that for roasting and curing too. And then there’s the fine sea salt which is what we mainly use for seasoning everything with — like your initial seasoning.
How did you envision what the reader would be like?
That was the hardest part for me. I write recipes all the time, and I write them for cooks. Sometimes it’s a list of ingredients without amounts. I had to imagine what it was like to cook it at home. Some of the stuff I actually cooked in my apartment just to see how an apartment stove would work for this kind of stuff. That’s why in the book we call for using a lot of cast-iron pans — they hold the heat really well. The stove at your house is never going to get as hot as the one at a professional kitchen, unless you’ve got a really, really nice one. There’s also a ton of illustrations in the book. Because sometimes someone can get lost in the way you’re explaining. Our artist — Owen [Brozman] — he drew step-by-step instructions for some of the recipes, like especially for the pommes frites one. And then there’s a simple one like the meatloaf — everyone tends on being like, "What do you mean by forming it into a patty using a ring mold?" That was unclear to a lot of people, so he just drew a picture.
What do people most often ask you about that you felt you had to include?
People always ask about the fried chicken. People always ask how we make the French fries so perfect. Little things like that — how could I make this at home? These are definitely two big ones. One thing that we definitely wanted to do was the brunch section — there’s a whole chapter just on brunch, because it’s so popular. And it’s kind of a fun thing to do at home.
Are you guys looking to expand again or are you happy with how things are now?
I’m happy with how things are now. We’re not actively looking for another space. We’re not at that point at this moment. One thing that just happened for Buttermilk Channel is that they opened a Tokyo location. I went as a consulting chef for it because the menu’s basically like the greatest hits — it’s all the food I made when I was there. So there’s one in Japan, which is kind of funny. Doug willed it to happen. He’s been casually mentioning it to people for years — like, “Buttermilk Channel Tokyo.” He had just been talking to all these people and one day he’s like, it’s happening. It’s a little taste of Brooklyn right there in Japan.
All these places with Brooklyn attached to it I guess have their appeal.
Yeah — Egg in Williamsburg, there’s one there. There’s a Luke’s Lobster there. There’s some big names like Sarabeth’s. It’s interesting. Everyone’s super into food. High-end, low-end and everything in between. It’s pretty cool.
Buttermilk Channel’s pancakes
Pancakes are a brunch staple — especially at Buttermilk Channel.
"People will order them, I’ll say every other table," Angulo says. "They’re gigantic. They’re like Shel Silverstein pancakes."
"Kindness & Salt" features the restaurant’s menu for its pancakes, one that Angulo has relied on for many years.
"It’s just a simple pancake recipe that’s foolproof and delicious and people just love them," he says.
Makes about 10 (6-in.) pancakes
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. fine sea salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
- Nonstick cooking spray
- Maple syrup, for serving (optional)
- Salted butter, at room temperature, for serving (optional)
Measure the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, milk and vanilla until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk together gently. When the batter is still a bit lumpy, stir in the melted butter with a few strokes of the whisk, then let the batter sit for 10 minutes at room temperature while the baking powder activates and the remaining lumps dissolve (see note #1).
Lightly grease a griddle or saute pan with cooking spray and preheat over medium-high heat (see note #2). Test the cooking surface with a dime-size amount of pancake batter. If the bottom cooks in a few seconds, then you’re ready to make pancakes.
Ladle out approximately 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. The pancakes are ready to flip when small bubbles start to form on the top surface. Flip the pancakes and continue cooking until they’re firm to the touch and golden on both sides.
Stack the pancakes into a giant tower a la Shel Silverstein. Serve “good little Grace” the one on top and save the middle pancake for “terrible Theresa.” Top with maple syrup and butter.
Note #1: You’re trying to bring these ingredients together as gently as possible to avoid overworking the batter and ending up with pancakes that are tough or chewy rather than soft and tender.
Note #2: You can use butter or canola oil to cook the pancakes, but nonstick cooking spray will give you the easiest and most consistent results.
The night before: Whisk together the dry ingredients and store in a covered bowl or freezer bag.
Excerpted from the book “Kindness & Salt: Recipes for The Care & Feeding of Your Friends and Family” by Ryan Angulo and Doug Crowell. Copyright © 2018 by Ryan Angulo and Doug Crowell. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Life & Style. All rights reserved.
IF YOU GO
"Kindness & Salt" co-authors Ryan Angulo and Doug Crowell are in conversation with Matt Rodbard at Books Are Magic on Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m. | 225 Smith St., Carroll Gardens, 718-246-2665 | free