“Chicken butter changed me” – Bon Appétit visits Nightbell

Bon Appétit’s assistant web editor, Alex Delany, visited Asheville recently to eat, drink, and enjoy the culture. His trip included stops at Cúrate, Wicked Weed and other local favorites.

When he stopped in to eat at Nightbell, Delany discovered a delicious creation from Chef Katie Button: chicken butter. He wrote about the savory treat in a recent blog post, “Regular Butter Is Fine, Chicken Butter is Beautiful.”

 chicken butter Nightbell. Photo by Erin Adams.

Taste chicken butter, served with Farm & Sparrow bread, at Nightbell. Photo by Erin Adams.

From the article:

Chef Katie Button, author of the new book Cúrate, placed a plate of butter on the bar at Nightbell and handed over a small spoon. No bread. No waffle. Nothing. “Go for it. Trust me,” she said. I scooped up a bit of the cappuccino-colored frosting-like substance, and went for it.

It was delicious. Let’s just get that out of the way. I went for second and third spoonfuls unashamedly. Chef Button uses sorghum (a sweet syrup made from sorghum leaves that resembles molasses), which she dubs “the maple syrup of Appalachia,” to give the butter a little sweetness. Then she whips it into an airy frosting-like consistency. The real MVP here though is the chicken fat that’s whipped into the butter. It gives the spread a subtle meatiness and depth of flavor that moves beyond just salty and creamy—which is how I found myself eating it by the spoonful.

Bon Appetit chicken butter Nightbell

But where did the idea come from? “The basis of Appalachian food comes from limited food waste and a need to be able to stock up and store food for the year,” explained Button. “When people think of Appalachia, most think of poverty. Unfortunately, while researching our area, I found this particular stereotype to be true. One in four children in Buncombe County are food insecure, meaning they don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”

So rendering chicken fat, an ingredient that can be stored for about a month in the fridge and indefinitely in the freezer, helps use up the whole animal, and can be stockpiled for later uses.

Through Chef Button is lessening food waste and creating amazing, flavorful dishes for guests at Nightbell. Make a reservation to try it yourself (we serve it with Farm & Sparrow seeded bread), and read the full article from Alex Delany for tips on making chicken butter at home.

And, as Delany said, “Butter doesn’t have to just be butter; it can be butter you eat from a spoon when no one (or everyone) is watching.”