Brown Butter Noodles: World’s Easiest Comfort Food

Brown Butter Noodles: World’s Easiest Comfort Food

When I think “comfort food,” usually it conjures images of long-simmered, filling soups, gooey, crusty macaroni and cheese, or creamy, cozy chicken pot pie. All wonderful, of course, but also time-consuming. Y’know, challenging for a parent to pull off. So what I’m going to share with you today may just rock your world: My friends, meet Brown Butter Noodles.

Think warm, nutty flavor. Soft, tender noodles with crispy edges from a dance in a hot skillet. A combination so perfect it had me licking the bowl—and eating this same dish for three days straight.

I was sick, you see. Bad head cold, aches, the whole nine yards. Stephen, the best husband ever, happened to be off last week so he a) took care of Harry during school vacation, and b) kept me fed with toast and soup. He’d pull a packet of chicken broth from the freezer and cook up some noodles, and I’d slump to the table for a low-key family dinner. Eventually, though, even I got tired of the same thing night after night, so we wound up with a stash of leftover noodles—the fine ones you see above. And then I rallied for New Year’s Eve and made a batch of my mom’s Fancy Meatballs, which we ate over broad egg noodles: more leftovers.

The next night I was feeling better, but not good enough for any kitchen wizardry (and not especially hungry—the best part of this getting-sick thing is that I lost four pounds). So Stephen fed Harry and, once the kid was in bed, made himself a sandwich. At which point I realized that huh, I actually was kinda hungry. Not for anything heavy, though, and nothing with too much going on. I looked at the abundant noodles and inspiration struck.

A small knob of butter, swirled in a skillet until the foam subsides and the milk solids brown, when the rich, deep aroma is strong enough to penetrate even my stuffy nose.

A handful of cold noodles, scattered over the butter and tossed to heat through, then left alone until the parts touching the pan start to brown and crisp. A sprinkling of salt. A bowlful of happy.

I’ll never cook less than a full package of noodles again.

Do you have a favorite quick comfort food? Tell me about it in the comments!

Crispy Brown Butter Noodles
Serves 1, and multiplies nicely

1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup cold, cooked egg noodles

  1. In a large, light-colored skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Swirl it around a bit as it melts, just to keep it cooking evenly. It’ll foam, and when the foam subsides the magic begins. Continue to swirl the pan occasionally, but leave it alone otherwise—just watch it, since once the color starts to change it darkens quickly.
  2. When the butter begins to smell nutty and the color is toasty, add the noodles—break up any clumps as you scatter them over the butter. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Stir to combine, and increase heat to medium-high.
  3. Cook untouched for 2 to 3 minutes, until you can see the edges start to brown, then stir and cook untouched for a few minutes more—how long you cook them will depend on how much crunch you want. Serve immediately.

MAKE BABY FOOD: These are fine for babies if you go easy on the salt. Either puree with a splash of broth or milk or serve as finger food—pull some out before the edges start to crisp up unless your baby has fully mastered chewing (swallowing a crisp noodle whole could be a choking hazard).