Churn Up the Flavor

Compound Butter Makes Any Meal Magic

If you’re like me, you’ve been cooped up all winter cooking in the kitchen and you’re ready to get outside and grill. This article is more of a concept as opposed to a recipe. You can take about 10 or 15 minutes to prep all the ingredients in the morning or the night before, then cook everything on the grill in the evening. With a little of the secret ingredient — a topping of
compound butter — every guest will love the meal.


Bread

If you find yourself in need of a piece of bread to soak up the juices after you finish a scrumptious steak, this will be your new go-to method. Find yourself some great sourdough or country loaf, whole if you can. Cut thick slices and grill it until bits of the center and crust start to get dark brown to black. Your bread will now make a great base for serving your steak. It will soak up any juices when you place the sliced pieces of steak on top. It will also work great for serving whole steaks, there just may not be as many juices to soak up.


Compound Butter

Butter soaks up flavor like a sponge. If you leave it uncovered in the refrigerator for too long, it will taste (unpleasantly) like a mixture of everything in your refrigerator. Take a few ounces of butter and leave at room temperature for a half hour to soften it or soften it slightly in the microwave. You can flavor your butter in about any way you want. Traditional Maitre d’Hotel (recipe below) has parsley, lemon juice and a little salt. It seems simple, but just a little on a steak, bread or a vegetable will take it over the edge in flavor.


Steak

A large sliced steak with accompaniments will normally feed at least two, maybe three people depending on the size. Dinner parties where each person gets a steak and it is cooked to the desired doneness can be hard. Instead, have two or three steaks and cook one rare, one mid-rare and one medium, rest and slice them all and place on top of the bread slices for people to serve themselves. It’s almost like an open-faced sandwich bar. Once you top each slice of steak with a slice of compound butter and it melts down over the steak and bread, you won’t need any other toppings.


Vegetable

You need a vegetable, maybe two. It can be something easy that you par-cook in salted water (depending on the size of the item, 30 to 90 seconds, then chill in ice water to stop cooking) the day before and finish on the grill with your other items. Just a few minutes on the grill on each side will add a whole other dimension to the vegetables, not to mention topping with the butter. April is the start of the asparagus season. Grab a few bunches at the farmers market and have them ready for your next dinner.


Variations

Maitre d’Hotel butter is amazing, but don’t let that limit your repertoire. Try different combinations of butter on chicken, pork, scallops and grilled oysters.

Items to use other than parsley:
Chives, garlic chives, dill, cilantro, rosemary, oregano, fennel fronds, thyme, sage or other herbs that will go with your meal.

Flavor combinations to try:
Typically, about 4 ounces of butter, and 1 to 2 ounces of herb, with a dash of spice, but taste as you go and add more if needed. Salt and pepper are a must with most kinds of butter. Some sweeter kinds of butter are great for bread, you may go light on the salt and leave out the pepper.

  • Maple syrup, chipotle, bacon
  • Roasted jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice
  • Honey, cinnamon
  • Orange juice, toasted walnut, honey
  • Soy sauce, ginger, garlic
  • Thai basil, pepper flakes, lime zest
  • Bleu cheese, green onion, hot sauce
  • Parmesan, oregano, basil
  • Sun-dried tomato, basil, parmesan

Lemon Parsley Compound Butter

(Maitre D’Hotel Butter)

4 ounces softened butter, at least 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature
¼ bunch parsley, minced
½ to 1 lemon, juiced (add half, taste and add more if desired)
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the butter into a medium mixing bowl and allow it to come to room temperature. Add parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper or other ingredients as desired and stir until the mixture has come together and lemon juice/moisture is not separating from the butter. This will happen when all ingredients become the same temperature. Scoop the mixture onto the middle of a piece of plastic wrap, parchment paper, or wax paper (roughly 12” x 12”). Fold the wrap/paper in half over the butter and use the long side of a cutting board or cookie sheet to push it into a cylinder. Twist each end the opposite directions to tighten the cylinder of butter and to hold the butter in place. Then refrigerate for at least 1 hour to set. When ready, unravel butter and slice into disks. Place on food when warm so the butter warms and melts slightly.



Brook Harlan is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He is a culinary arts instructor at the Columbia Area Career Center.


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