Make a Compound Butter, and Use It on Your Next Meal

The term “compound butter” doesn’t sound very delicious. If you weren’t already familiar with its creamy, herb-speckled joys, you might decide to give it a pass.

But then you’d be missing out on one of the easiest, most versatile recipes in the whole pantry cooking repertoire. Because as long as you’ve got butter (vegan butter works, too), salt and some kind of seasoning, it’s a snap to make.

And once you have some tucked away in the freezer, it will add richness and pungency to simple grilled meats, fish, toast, vegetables, beans, pasta and the best darn buttered eggs you’ve ever had.

To make ½ cup (enough for 8 to 10 servings), start with ½ cup (1 stick) softened butter. Make sure it’s really soft. If you poke it, your finger should slide right through.

Put it in a bowl and season it to your heart’s content, starting with ¼ teaspoon each freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt (or if you use salted butter, you can skip the salt). Add in 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (any herbs, a combination keeps things interesting, bite after bite). Squeeze in a few drops of lemon or lime juice, or add a tiny drizzle of mild vinegar like white wine or cider.

I also like to use a bit of allium, either 1 tablespoon of something onion-y (shallot, scallion, leek, any kind of onion) or a grated garlic clove. You can even use both onion and garlic, though it will turn out on the more pungent side.

You can stop here, or you can continue to play, mixing in a little of any of the following: minced anchovies, smoked salmon, sardines or smoked trout; a drizzle of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce or fish sauce; grated citrus zest; grated or crumbled cheese like Gorgonzola, Parmesan or feta; ground spices like coriander, cumin, turmeric, fennel seeds or chile powder; a dash of hot sauce, chile paste, mustard or pomegranate molasses; minced olives, capers, pickled peppers or preserved lemons. If you need inspiration, just stare into the depths of your condiment collection for a while. Something will occur to you.

[See another compound butter recipe from Melissa Clark on NYT Cooking.]

Make sure to keep tasting as you mix in the ingredients. When the butter is so good you can’t stop licking the spoon, it’s time to stop.

Dollop it onto a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap, roll it into a log, and pop it in the freezer for up to three months. Then, whenever you want an instant seasoning or sauce, slice off a coin or two.

On Sunday night, I used some of the compound butter, flavored with ramps and thyme, that I made in May as a sauce for roasted chicken thighs (salted, peppered, drizzled with olive oil, and roasted at 425 degrees for 30 minutes; dot with compound butter after cooking). Then I used more of the butter for the sourdough we served alongside. Paired with an arugula salad, it was a lovely, simple meal that I’ll put on repeat — even when we can go out to restaurants again.

This is part of a series in which Melissa Clark teaches you how to cook with pantry staples. See more.

Source link