Make the most of culinary herbs and spices.
Compound Butters Rescue Plain Foods
by Sandra Bowens
Here's one that's full of our favorite recipes because we wrote the book! It is also full of information, helpful hints and ideas for using herbs and spices in your kitchen.
Illustrations abound in this comprehensive and informative companion for the gardener and the cook.
"What's a good way to season salmon? I want to broil it," my mother asked me recently. My thoughts turned first to compound butter but I offered another suggestion, assuming she didn't have any of that in her freezer.
But everyone should have a frozen cache of the flavored butter. Compound butters are handy for quick garnishes and last minute "treatments."
Nothing could be simpler for dinner than a fillet of fresh fish run under the broiler. Nothing could be more plain, either, until you top it with that disc of compound butter. This transforms a bland entree into a delicate presentation.
Compound butters are an easy mix of softened butter with a savory flavoring that is formed into a log and sliced. The slices are placed on top of meat or fish for an instant sauce. In his book Sauces, James Peterson suggests compound butters as a decorative and flavorful finish for hot soups as well.
Mr. Peterson lists no less than 27 traditional combinations in his book. Perhaps the best known is Maitre d' Butter, classically served over grilled steak. It's a combination of parsley and lemon juice worked into the butter.
Marlena Spieler offers a variety of unusual combinations in her book, The Classic Barbecue and Grill Cookbook. Her raspberry and roasted garlic butter is a stunning pink that would liven up any white fish. The sun-dried tomato and basil butter would be gorgeous melting in the center of a bowl of hot corn.
Try coming up with your own combinations as I have in the recipe below. Fresh herbs will work the best and they should be minced fine. Always add a bit of salt and pepper. Make sure the butter is at room temperature and the rest is easy. And tasty!
Lemon Dill Butter
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 Tablespoons minced fresh dill weed
2 Tablespoons minced lemon zest
Salt and pepper, to taste
Mix the seasonings into the softened butter. Spread butter mixture into a long strip down the center of a sheet of waxed paper, stopping about 3 inches from the edge on each side. Fold the paper over so that the butter is in the center and gently push in and under to form a smooth log with the butter. Continue rolling the wrapped butter log into a cylinder and chill.
To serve, cut slices from the log and place atop hot, cooked meat or vegetables.
To store, wrap again in foil or plastic. Keep for one week in the refrigerator or freeze for up to three months.