Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Compound Herb Butters - Summer's Special Gift

Today's How To-sday is about making Herb Butter, sometimes called Compound butters

Herb butters are the best way I know to dazzle a dinner guest. Besides being less hazardous than letting your husband start the charcoal, they are embarrassingly easy to make and you'll rake in the compliments. As I say when I lecture, even some small part of you wants to seem like Martha Stewart, so why not take the easy road.  Herbal Butters are a terrific way to show off all the work you've put into your herb garden and relax while doing it!   

Nothing beats the savory flavor of herb butter with a warm loaf of bread, but don't limit yourself--use them when grilling steaks, broiling or sautéing fish; scrambling, poaching and frying eggs; basting chicken, dotting on carrots, squash, zucchini or roasting new potatoes. Herbs pack the butter with more punch, so you use less, saving fat and calories.

You can use either butter or margarine, but the flavors are different--especially when cooked. Butter develops a remarkable nutty flavor--incredible with most vegetables, but margarine is better for high-temperature cooking because it doesn't scorch as easily.

To prepare the herb butters, start by softening the butter or margarine. (All these recipes call for 1 pound -4 sticks, but you can halve them). Using an electric or stand mixer, beat until light and fluffy, scraping the sides often.  Blending will take anywhere from 3-5 minutes, depending on how powerful your mixer is and how bored you get.  The longer you blend the lighter and more spreadable the butter.  If in a hurry or if you want a less fluffy butter, you can use the faster method of skipping the beating and just using a fork to blend the herbs into softened butter.   To lower the fat, beat in a small amount of skim milk (no more than 1/3 cup per pound of butter).  

Once the butter is well mixed and fluffy, add the minced fresh or dry herbs and beat until well combined. When using dry herbs soak them for about 10 minutes in a tsp. of lemon juice before mixing into butter.  The basic instructions are the same for all the recipes listed here.

Herb butters are best made ahead so the flavors can blend--chill them at least 3 hours and serve slightly softened. They'll keep in the refrigerator for a month and can be frozen for up to 3 months.  

Marjoram - Thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sweet marjoram, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried (soaked in white wine or water)
1 1/2 tablespoon minced chives
1 tablespoon minced thyme
1 tablespoon minced parsley
Mix as instructed above.  Delightful with fresh bread, fish or vegetables--brush on new potatoes, cover and bake for 45 minutes.

1 small clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon lemon rind
1 tablespoon orange rind
1 tablespoon mixed lemon herbs like lemon thyme, lemon basil lemon balm or lemon verbena
A perfect accent for baked or broiled chicken, fish or duck.   

2 tablespoons minced rosemary (only 1/2 Tbls. dried)
2 tablespoons minced chives
Robust flavor is excellent with chicken, game hens or a hearty bread.

6 jalapeno peppers (more if you're brave), seeded and well-chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
Try this with corn on the cob, chicken or potatoes.

Consider these recipes a springboard: other herbs good for butters include lemon thyme, basil, tarragon, sage and dill--and don't forget seeds, too. As a general rule, use 1 tablespoon fresh herbs per 1/4 pound butter.

  •  To eat with a crusty bread, pack it in crocks. For a more dainty look use a Madeleine pan, ramekin or small molds. (You can remove the butter more easily from a mold if you set it in a pan of hot water for a few seconds.)   
  • You can use a butter curler to make short or long curls or a melon baller for balls. Add texture to balls if you like with the back of a fork (peanut-butter-cookie style).
  • For individual portions, form the herb butter into a log, roll in minced herbs and slice into rounds. (This version freezes very well.) 
  • In a hurry? Shape into a mound on a plate using a rubber spatula (or your hands, I won't tell) and surround with the fresh herb of your choice.  If that's too messy for you, shape it on wax paper instead of a plate and chill for a few hours--the cold butter will be easy to transfer to a clean plate.
  • Or you can pat the butter onto a waxed-paper-lined shallow pan, chill and cut out shapes with cookie cutters, smoothing the edges with a finger dipped in hot water and garnishing with fresh herb sprigs.  
Use your inner Martha Stewart and create even more delightful butter designs.

If fresh herbs are not something you have access to, we recomend our specially blended herbs for butters and cream cheese, like Herbal Spread, Butter N Cheese and Cilantro Spread.  We have a Cream Cheese sampler with all three or you can buy a set of our 5 best butter blends here.

1 comment:

  1. I have had the pleasure of eating these but have never made them! I have grown herbs for years. will make some this week.

    Thanks so much for posting. Love your blog.

    Kay Staton
    Lexington, Va.


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