Do not go to the section of the market where they sell a little tub of premade compound butter. Not only is it expensive, but usually it has also been oversalted. Homemade compound butter is easy to make, less expensive, better for you, and it tastes better. Compound butter is one of those simple but flavorful ways to help make a slice of piping hot cornbread just a little more impressive, or by taking a grilled piece of fish or meat to another level. What I love most about compound butter is how creative I can get, from using fresh herbs to dark bourbons. Go crazy. Have fun. Be creative and then impress your dining guests.
The key to a great compound butter is definitely the butter. Don’t waste your time with those fake no-name kinds of butter; you want to impress, so splurge a little and use a great high quality unsalted butter. If I am making a savory butter, I season with salt, at the very end. If it is a sweet butter, I just use a little more flavoring to make it a bit more intense.
I recently wrote a recipe for an event that Jacqueline Church is hosting this summer; BBQ Bonanza 2011. We had to write about a topic that is true to her heart; sustainability. That is sustainability at the grill. For this recipe, I used a gorgeous piece of salmon that was just waiting to be grilled. The quality was very good, and I wanted to keep it simple but refreshing. I took one of my favorite ways of grilling salmon, simply stuffing a whole one with fresh herbs, butter, and white wine, and turned it into a compound butter.
For this particular compound butter recipe, I used fresh Italian basil, a little shallot, and a lot of lemon zest. The salmon was simply seasoned with a little pepper and then grilled on a salt slab. Right before serving, I topped the salmon with slices of this very refreshing compound butter. The slow heat that was left in the grill as well as the smoke wrapped around the salmon and butter, creating a very moist and flavorful piece of fish.
Do you use compound butter? If so, what is your favorite flavor combination?
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* this recipe is for Basil Butter if you want to use another herb, omit the basil and substitute with 3 tablespoons of your favorite “fresh” herb. As well you can opt to leave in the lemon and wine.
1 stick high-quality unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
1 lemon, zest only
1 small shallot, minced
1 tablespoon white wine, optional
kosher salt, to taste
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