Got a few ingredients floating around the fridge and have no idea what to do with them…perhaps a compound butter is in your future.
Compound butters have been around for what seems like an eternity and hold a very special place it the annals of culinary history. One in particular, Maitre D hotel butter is one of the very first things aspiring cooks learn in culinary school or from their first real restaurant job. Loaded with minced shallots and fresh parsley, this butter is a perfect standby for any kitchen, professional or aspiring. Others, like Café de Paris butter made a small restaurant famous and has over the years spawned a network of outlets worldwide, including here in Dubai. This outlet named Encroute serves one dish, steak with Café de Paris butter, cooked table-side <top> with fries. Not to terribly exciting but it does offer one the chance to taste the original and experience how a simple thing like butter can elevate a product to near cult like status.
Compound butters have come along way in the last few years and with the availability of exotic ingredients more and more commonplace worldwide most have access to the raw ingredients necessary to create you own little masterpiece. This is the culinary wildcard, some if not most will not know what it is you have done to that piece of meat or fish, but they will know that it tastes great!
As easy as it seems to make, you do have to start with the right ingredients. Since butter is the main component, find one that is of great quality. Eicher or Anchor (here in Dubai) make great choices, and any of the artesian varieties in your part of the world will work too. The one thing to remember is that you want unsalted butter. This allows you to keep a check on the sodium level of your little creation and offers you the control to season to your hearts content, whereas salted butter leaves you no flexibility but is good for the lazy chef category, which I sometimes fall into. Once you have acquired the best butter possible for your area, it is time to start thinking about what you are serving it with <on> and what flavors you are looking to highlight. Here are 5 recipes that can and will get your creative and salivary juices flowing…
5 compound butter recipes
Room temp, unsalted butter or if your lazy like I am sometimes, use salted and forgo the addition of salt in the individual recipes. Simply mix the ingredients below with the softened butter, form and cool back down in the fridge. Then just cut your portion and place it on your meat/veg of choice and you are good to go…just remember to check your seasoning!
* – The below will flavor 500g or 2 cups or 1 pound of butter.
For fish and seafood
Tarragon Lemon butter
Zest from 1 lemon, minced
½ c – fresh tarragon, chopped
Garlic chive butter
Chives, minced – 150g or 5 oz
Garlic – 8 cloves, peeled mashed and salted for 10 minutes then pureed. You can substitute roasted garlic puree for a mellower garlic flavor
Maitre d hotel butter
1 cup chopped parsley, about 1 small bunch
Juice from 1 lemon
3-4 shallots, minced
If using unsalted butter season with salt and white pepper, if using salted butter then just season with white pepper.
200 g or 6 ounces of Cajun spice mixture
Cajun spice mix for salted butter
½ c – paprika
2T – Brown sugar…I used Tate and Lyle fair trade dark brown soft sugar
1T – cayenne
1T – thyme, dried
½ T – Coriander powder
½ T – Cumin powder
1T – black pepper powder
2 t – oregano
1t – white pepper
2 – Bay leaves, pulverized
…for unsalted butter add the following;
4 scant tablespoons of salt, I used Fleur de Sel (Sea salt). Just be careful not to over salt whatever you do. If you are using fleur de sel or another rough salt, remember to grind in a blender or coffee grinder and pass through a chinois with the rest of the Cajun spice ingredients.
Chipotle habanero butter (for heat freaks)
5 Habanero chilies, grilled and pureed
1 tablespoon adobo sauce, what the canned Chipotles come packed in or ½ dried, soaked in hot water or…if you lean towards the suicidal 2 of the canned chipotle chilies too.
You can experiment on any and all of these and they do not necessarily just go with the proteins that I have grouped them with for this article. Experiment a bit and find your favorite flavor balance and add or subtract ingredients to fit your tastes. Just remember to use the freshest ingredients possible and have fun.