Oh butter. You savory, melt-in-my-mouth, naughty little delight. To be honest, I can’t think of a situation in the kitchen when I don’t slide the glass butter dish out of the refrigerator and next to the stove. Okay, maybe one. The green salad. But when it comes to compound butter, or butter softened and mixed with additional goodness, the options are endless.
Personally, I revel for the times when I’m at a restaurant and the kitchen serves a compound butter as an accompaniment. Perhaps a whipped honey butter for pancakes, or a parsley butter for the still sizzling steak.
So with the arrival of the summer season, compound butters seem appropriate – they don’t create heat in the kitchen like simmering a sauce, and are perfect for outdoor dining. Parsley and lemon juice for the classic Maitre D’hotel butter. Or citrus zest for grilled fish, brown sugar and cinnamon for waffles. Anchovies, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red pepper, paprika, bacon, Tabasco, dried chili peppers. It took serious self control to put a period at the end of that last sentence.
So compound some butter to enhance your summer dining (and make it easier), and leave yourself more time to compound other things. Like that pile of laundry.
To craft compound butter is simple. Take room temperature butter (a quality European brand is best) and mix in your chosen flavoring agent. Quantity is personal preference. Taste and see. Not herbal enough? Add another teaspoon. Not sweet enough? Drizzle in more honey.
Roll it in a large piece of plastic wrap or store in small ramekins. I was once scared silly of the rolling technique, but in recent work was forced to overcome my fear. Now I realize, it’s a no brainer. A five-year-old could do it, probably better than me, too.
Wrap one of the long ends of the plastic wrap rectangle around the butter and push tight against the inside to form a log. Roll it away from you – keeping the log as tight as possible. It helps to sprinkle water under the plastic wrap.
Tie off the ends, and refrigerate until firm. The whole process takes ten minutes – absolute max. Store compound butter in the refrigerator until ready to enjoy. Let stand at room temperature for half an hour before serving.
For a decorative slice, cut the cold compound butter into quarter-inch slices, then use small cookie cutters to create a scalloped edge or shape of your choice. Compound butters can also be piped onto parchment paper using a star tip and piping bag for an extra fancy flair.