Hilopites, or “broken tiles,” is a classic Greek dish of small squares of pasta with brown butter and myzithra cheese. Chef Wright uses an unconventional method of making brown butter, and although it takes longer than the typical approach, it’s worth it: In addition to a delicious brown butter sauce, you also end up with clarified butter that can be used for various other recipes.
2 cups hilopites pasta
4 scallions, thinly sliced, whites and green tops separated
1 tablespoon clarified brown butter (recipe follows)
4 tablespoons compound brown butter (recipe follows)
Fresh-ground black pepper
4-6 basil leaves
¼ cup myzithra cheese, finely grated
Compound Brown Butter
1 pound unsalted, good-quality butter
1 quart heavy whipping cream
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
Fill a large, deep pot with water. Salt the water until it is a little stronger than sea water and bring to a rolling boil. Add the hilopites and cook for three minutes. While the pasta is cooking, put a medium-size sauté pan over low heat. Add the clarified brown butter and the whites of the scallions and cook until softened.
Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of the pasta water, and add it to the sauté pan. Add 3 tablespoons of the compound brown butter and toss to coat the pasta well. Turn off the heat and adjust the consistency to your taste with more compound butter and a little of the pasta cooking water if needed.
Spoon into serving bowls and garnish with torn basil, scallion greens, black pepper and myzithra cheese. Serve with a malagousia like Zaferakis from Tyrnavos.
For the Compound Brown Butter:
In a deep saucepan combine butter and cream. Place over high heat until butter is melted and mixture starts to simmer.
Lower the heat and let the cream and butter cook slowly, stirring only occasionally, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pot thoroughly each time.
When the mixture begins to separate, raise the heat to medium and begin to whisk the mixture every couple of minutes. The goal is to allow the fat to rise to the top and the milk solids to fall to the bottom of the pot, where they will brown. Whisk the mixture to make sure that the milk solids brown evenly but not hard enough to re-emulsify them with the fat.
When the liquid turns dark caramel in color and the aroma is fragrant and nutty, remove the pan from the heat. Very slowly add half of the vinegar while whisking. If you pour too fast, the hot butter will boil over.
Pour the butter into a heat-proof bowl or jar and let cool. Once cooled, skim the clarified butter from the top. This flavorful brown butter can be stored in a jar and kept in a cupboard, ready to use for any general cooking.
Using a hand blender, slowly emulsify the remaining vinegar into the remaining browned parts of the butter just until it becomes smooth and glossy. Season with salt. You are looking for a nice tang from the vinegar to balance the richness of the browned butter, and just enough salt to make the flavor shine.
This recipe was featured in W&S August 2016.
Photo by Felicia Perietti.