Boost Your Meals With Compound Butters

Whether sweet, savory or spicy, compound butter can top just about anything. rukxstockphoto/Shutterstock

I follow the age-old cooking adage that butter makes everything better. Whether you're creating a creamy sauce from scratch, burrowing a blob in a baked potato or plopping a dollop on a perfectly cooked steak, butter is a natural enhancer for just about any food.

My favorite dairy product has had many lives: as the cornerstone of French cuisine, a staple food in India's pre-history as ghee, or buried in Ireland's peat bogs for years. In whatever shape you prefer your butter, there's an easy and delicious and creative way to take your butter to the next level: compound butter.

It's such a simple concept that it might seem silly to even list recipes, but fear not; the creative combinations are endless and the finished product will look far more fancier than your efforts might foretell.

First, you'll want to start with a delicious, creamy butter from an excellent producer. Now is not the time to cut corners; good butter is pricier than store-brand, but for me when I consider the volatility of the dairy market and animal welfare, it's a small price to pay. Two brands that you can find pretty easily in North America are Plugrá, a European-style butter, and Kerrygold, an Irish butter that relies on grass-fed cows.

Butter is best

chunk of yellow butter with butter knife
Butter goes with everything. (Photo: jules [CC by 2.0]/Flickr)

What makes a European-style butter? More butterfat. Extra butterfat means less water, and moisture is something you want to avoid when baking crispy cookies and flaky pastries. When it comes to compound butters, use whatever butter you like best.

Whatever butter you choose, make sure it's unsalted so you have full control over the flavor levels. You'll want to start with a stick of butter, letting it completely soften at room temperature. Once it's mixable, let your culinary genius shine. A food processor or a hand mixer will produce a nice, fluffy butter; simply sprinkle, crumble, smash, squeeze or blend your flavor add-ons until equally mixed. But if you're feeling old-fashioned, the ole' fork and bowl will work just fine!

Making pancakes or muffins this weekend? Try a maple-cinnamon butter.

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

Instructions

In a food processor or bowl, add 1 stick of butter, cinnamon, brown sugar and maple syrup. Pulse or mash with fork until completely blended. To store, keep in a lidded glass container in the refrigerator.

Cooking an extra-special cut of meat? You'll want to add a fat square of garlic-herb butter at the end as a topper.

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs of your choosing (basil, oregano or rosemary all work well here)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Scrape butter mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper and roll into a log. Twist ends to seal well. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Slice into rounds and enjoy on steaks, vegetables or bread.

Want a spicy twist on your grilled corn or fish? Try this Southwestern spread.

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced very finely
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, stem and leaves finely chopped
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix well. Scrape butter mixture out onto a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper and roll into a log. Twist ends to seal well. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Slice into rounds and slather on corn, grilled vegetables or fish.