May 2011

Seasonal Compound Butters

I tend to forget the elemental delights of compound butter until my summer herbs return to remind me…

Now that it’s June, most of us have fresh herbs gracing our backyards or windowsills, and it thrills me to have this quick flavor fix at my fingertips. These aromatic herbs are begging to be trimmed, and as the sunlight lingers late into the evening, they’re growing so quickly I can almost  see it happen. This makes me eager once again to combine them with other summerlicious flavors and sweet creamy butter. I think I’ll make this my go-to seasonal hostess gift as well. I can grab a log or two on the way out the door, or by planning ahead, have it accompanied by a crusty loaf of artisan bread.

So here’s what works for me: I combine my herbs, zests and other flavor components with room temperature butter and refrigerate the mixture just long enough to firm up a bit. I then shape my custom concoctions into a log, [approximately 7″ long] roll in plastic and refrigerate until fully set. If you plan to store them longer than 1 week, put them in the freezer. For gifting, I  transfer the firmly chilled log into a tidier new layer of plastic wrap and onto parchment paper, rolling it up and tying the ends with kitchen twine or jute. Lastly, I’ll add a fun tag for identification, or just hand write each flavor across the parchment  paper.

For your at-home stash, try one of these formats. Leave your compound butters free-form by spooning into ramekins and refrigerating. Later, set out several flavors for guests to enjoy on breads, veggies or grilled fish. Or, shape into a log, roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate – slicing into rounds as needed [if you own a sushi mat, that’s a great way to get a tight roll on your log]. Another option is to refrigerate until firm and use your melon baller to form pretty balls to serve alongside a garnish of its corresponding herbs.

Typically, compound butters are made by simply mixing herbs, spices or citrus zests into room temperature butter. To enhance the flavors further, consider first macerating your zest or dried fruit in spirits such as Grand Marnier or amaretto or if using herbs, combine with a splash of olive oil in a mini processor to release the oils and unlock more flavor before mixing into the butter.

This has summer written all over it!


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Here are a few of the infinite possibilities, each uses 2 sticks of salted butter:

orange zest + cointreau +  honey [1 T cointreau, zest of 1 navel orange, 2 T honey]   spread on muffins, scones & breads

caramelized shallot + cognac   [1/2 cup minced shallot caramelized in butter until deep golden brown, 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, 1T cognac, sprinkle of salt]  top a steak or burger

orange zest + tarragon +  dijon  [1 T packed chopped tarragon, 1 tsp dijon,  1 T orange juice, zest of one navel orange]  pair with Halibut or any mild fish

black pepper + thyme +  lemon zest  [zest of 2 lemons, 2 T chopped thyme, 1 generous tsp. telicherry peppercorns, smashed]  melt over grilled veggies or swordfish

herb blend  [2 tsp.olive oil,  1T sage,  2 T rosemary,1 T thyme, sprinkle of salt, squeeze of lemon juice – pulse in mini processor]  schmear on hearty artisan breads



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