Sunday, October 5, 2008

What Really Churns Me On

It's getting cold outside, and my herb garden is looking a little sad. I'm sad too - I need to make the most of the little time we have left together. One of my favorite things to do with excess fresh herbs is make compound butters. You can use just about any herb to make a flavorful butter spread or sauce. When it comes to butter, the possibilities are endless. One of my very favorite butter compounds is a simple honey butter, served on toast. Paired with English Breakfast tea (in bed of course), it is a typical start to my day.

Tarragon, chives and rosemary are what I need to bring inside from the garden. Tarragon butter is especially delicious - I often make it when I have guests, and serve with warm crusty bread. I always have unsalted butter on hand, and my own favorite salt (Maldon Sea Salt) and black pepper (I like Tellicherry) to add.

How to take care of your herbs, once they are on the way to the fridge:
  • Wash thoroughly with cool water.
  • Be sure to handle gently, so they don't break or bruise.
  • Dry and roll up (again, gently) in a dry paper towel.
  • Place in an airtight, sealed, labeled ziplock bag. Oxygen is the enemy.
  • Try to enjoy right away, and avoid storage for more than a few days. But this will help them keep longer.

Tools that are very helpful in making compound butters:

  • Tart tamper
  • Mojito muddler (this is what I use)
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Any one of these helps immensely. If none are around, a fork or spatula can suffice, but it makes for very hard work with cold butter.

Recipes and ideas for serving:

2 tbsp chopped tarragon + 4 tbsp butter + salt + cracked pepper = tarragon butter (serve with crusty bread, on steak, grilled chicken or fish, veggies... good with leeks)

2 tbsp honey + 4 tbsp butter = honey butter (fantastic on toast, pancakes, popovers, sandwiches)

2 tbsp chopped chives + 1 tbsp dry white wine + 4 tbsp butter = chive butter (baked potato, corn)

2 tbsp chopped rosemary + 4 tbsp butter + salt + cracked pepper = rosemary butter (lamb, steak, pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes)

2 tbsp chopped parsley + 1 tbsp lemon juice + 4 tbsp butter + salt + cracked pepper = lemon parsley butter (steak, fish, veggies)

Mash ingredients together in a bowl. Store leftover butter creation in the fridge. Once you get the hang of it, get inspired and try new combinations. Lime-cilantro-chipotle butter. Orange-anise butter. Besides, what dish is not improved with a little more butter?

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