Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My Secret Ingredient (the first)

My Secret Ingredient #1:
Compound Butter

To those out of the know, compound butter is basically butter with herbs in it. Yep. That simple. Deelish on anything grilled, especially fish. Make different varieties and store them in your freezer so they're on hand!

My Method:
Take 2 sticks of UNsalted butter, and set them in a glass bowl. Set them atop your stove while something is baking or just pop them in while it's warm. I know this takes a while, but a little patience goes a long way. If you want to irradiate them instead, for gods' sake put your box on the lowest setting! Our goal here is to soften the stuff, not melt or clarify it. Mix in about a tablespoon of olive oil as well to soften even further.

Meanwhile, pick out which herbs you want in there. For each stick of butter, use about 2 tbsp of herbs. If fresh, dice as finely as possible. If dried, crush to release oils. Fresh herbs look and taste better, but we can't always get them on a shoestring budget, now can we? You can also use liquid extracts, about 1/2 tbsp. Yes, I said extracts! They're not for Grandma anymore!

Good Herb Pairings:
Dill, black pepper and lemon juice (or lemon extract); cilantro, chiles and lime juice; herbs de provence (That's marjoram, thyme, savory, basil, rosemary, sage and fennel, for the non-foodies out there). Shallots are good for a more intense onion/garlic flavor. Oh, and PLEASE don't use raw garlic! Roast, roast, roast!

I love plain ole roasted garlic. Cut off the tops of garlic bulbs, drizzle with EVOO and roast @ 400 until brown. Now, the roasted garlic is all smooshy, and we want our butter to have a nice consistency instead of chunks of garlic, so I recommend throwing the garlic into a Cuisinart and adding the softened butter & olive oil a little bit at at time. Add parsley or black pepper for that speckled herby look.

You also can make a sweet butter with sugar, cinnamon, and a dash of vanilla extract for baking or just spreading on toast. You can take this butter-for-toast idea and run with it! Think fruit butter, mmm...

Back to The Method:
So basically, toss the herbs into the softened butter and mix. An electric beater is best to get the butter nice and creamy and everything evenly distributed. A spoon or whisk and elbow grease works too. You can add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil at this stage if you'd like a softer butter.

Now we're wrapping it up. Sprinkle water on the counter and lay down a nice layer of cling wrap. (Love that trick!) Then glop your compound butter down onto it, keeping it roughly in an oblong shape. Then pick up the wrap and, well, wrap. Our goal here is a rolled, sausage sort of shape. Twist the ends tight, and then wrap again in heavy aluminum foil so it keeps its shape. Now pop it in the fridge/freezer to cool. Store in the freezer and cut off slices whenever you need em!

That's it!