While recipe testing this week, I found out that buttermilk is still a misunderstood ingredient, thanks to its misleading name. Here's a quick primer: Buttermilk contains NO butter and is not fatty or heavy.
It's actually quite low fat (the stuff I buy is Organic Valley's 1 percent low-fat buttermilk). In the old days, buttermilk was the milk left over after the butter was churned out. Nowadays, it's made by adding lactic acid bacteria cultures to milk (the label will say "cultured buttermilk"), so it has a tangy taste ... kind of like yogurt or kefir. It's full of calcium, B12, and potassium; it's lower in calories and fat than whole milk; and it's easier on the digestion (some lactose-intolerant people can still enjoy buttermilk). It's fabulous in salad dressings, dips, pancake batter, and baked goods (such as Cherry Chocolate Buttermilk Scones), as well as added to mashed potatoes and as a coating for oven-baked "fried" chicken. Do a search for buttermilk in the DL recipe archives for tons more dishes using this versatile ingredient. And if you have any left over after cooking ... drink it straight up, well chilled. It's delish.