Compound Butter sounds like a skin ointment or the name of a rap band. It’s a strange name to give to a mixture of butter, herbs and seasonings, that has long been used by chefs to flavor meats and foods. Most of us first encounter flavored butters mixed with garlic, shallots and parsley atop a grilled steak. We perk up when a sweetened butter comes alongside a bread tray in an upscale restaurant.
Let’s Make a Compound Butter
At the farm recently, my daughter-in-law, Debra and I found a lovely venison loin, that had worked its way to the back of the freezer. Having taken a cooking class some years ago, Debra recalled a recipe for pavé of venison that uses a topping of butter, sun-dried tomatoes, basil and Parmesan cheese. Perfect! We had our evening meal.
As it turned out the compound butter was easy to make. Using a fork (we could’ve used a rubber spatula), we whipped basil, sun-dried tomatoes. and Parmesan cheese into softened butter and shaped the mixture into two 6″-inch logs. We wrapped each log in plastic wrap, twisted the ends, and chilled the logs for 2 or 3 hours until firm. That evening we served a 1/4″-slice atop the warm meat.
Later we discovered other uses for the the leftover butter roll: bread, vegetables (corn, Brussel sprouts, potatoes), and eggs the next morning. Sweetened butters are also good on pancakes, cornbread, cornbread, toast, and biscuits. The varieties are endless and include those with seasonings of Thailand, India, Russia, Turkey, North Africa, Italy, Japan, and Mexico.
The one rule for making your own compound butter at home it to soften the butter, but don’t let it melt.
Compound butter is a great way to enliven favorite dishes and impress your guests with new flavor treats. Shown below are a few variations that I like a lot. But if you really want to launch into butter blending big time, take a look at these eight wild and scrumptious recipes here.
Compound Butter: Just a Few More Ways
Base: Start with 1 stick of very soft, unsalted butter (1/2 cup) and a pinch of salt. (Unsalted butter allows for more control of the seasoning.)
Classic Maitre d’Hotel Butter: To base add 2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley, 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice; 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper. Instead of forming into a roll for slicing, the mixture can can be transferred into ramekins and served with meat or vegetables. (The name for this butter comes from it being prepared from scratch at the restaurant table by the maître d’hôtel.)
Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Butter: To base add 3 Tbs. finely shredded, fresh basil; 6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and finely chopped; 2 Tbs. freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Herb Butter: To base add 1 Tbs. thyme or parsley; 1 small shallot minced, 2 tsp. lemon or lime juice, a bit of white wine vinegar.
Cinnamon-Vanilla Butter: To base add 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1 vanilla bean split and seeds scraped into butter (or use 1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract). For more kick soak vanilla bean in a small amount of bourbon overnight before using.
Honey Butter: To base add 1-2 Tbs. good honey. Add a sprinkle of sea salt, if desired. Serve on pancakes, biscuits or toast.
Blend together butter and the desired ingredients from the recipes above. Make sure the butter is soft and not melted. Shape into two 6-inch logs about 1-1/2″ thick, wrap in plastic wrap, parchment or waxed paper, twist ends and refrigerate for 2-3 hours. Compound butter can be made 2 days ahead. If preferred, transfer butter to small ramekin and cover.