Compound butter is like pixie dust, transforming any mediocre piece of toast, fillet of fish, or pile of veggies into something magical.
The basics are quite easy – just take room temperature, unsalted butter and mash it up with various flavors, herbs, spices, cheeses, etc. I often put the butter in the microwave for 4 or 5 seconds (do not melt the butter, it will ruin the texture) to get it soft, then mash with a fork. If I am making a big batch, I can use the food processor, but if you are not making enough, the butter will just stick to the sides of the processor and not get mixed in.
Some ideas for add-ins:
– garlic (of course), shallots, chives
– bleu cheese, parmesan, gruyere
– basil, tarragon, thyme, lemon zest, orange zest, grated ginger, candied ginger
– reductions: red or white wine, balsamic vinegar
– honey, maple syrup, molasses, rum, cognac, vanilla extract, crushed macadamia, pine, walnuts, pecans
– cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, curry powder, pepper
Be sure to add in some salt as well. When the mixture tastes delish to you, make sure it is evenly mixed and scrape the whole mess onto a sheet of parchment paper. Using the paper, roll the mixture into a log shape, wrap up tight, and stick into a zip top bag. You can keep it in the fridge if you’ll be using all of it soon, or stick it in the freezer for a few months. I have half log of shallot-bleu cheese butter in my freezer. It was amazing on some rosemary Irish soda bread that I served with a creamy white bean soup to some friends a few weeks ago. The bleu cheese melts just slightly slower than the butter, making it totally spread-able and lovely.
Compound butters make instant meals when you can’t/won’t/don’t want to cook:
– Place a piece of fish or pile of shrimp or scallops on a bed of green beans, place a pat of compound butter on top and wrap into a parchment paper pouch – bake 20 minutes and voila!
– A pat on top of grilled beef, chicken, lamb or fish = instant sauce.
– Any side dish of veggies, potatoes, pasta, rice or bread would welcome a dab.
– Sweet versions on biscuits, pancakes, waffles, or just plain toast in the morning. (Honey-cinnamon butter on toast with sliced bananas or apples on top? Yum.)