I am about to let you in on a kitchen secret that is the ultimate game changer for many reasons. It is called Compound Butter, also known as Hotel Butter or Maitre d’Hotel Butter, and there are many of reasons to love it:
1) it is easy to make, no fancy technique- in fact, you really can’t mess this up
2) Fresh herbs are expensive. When you have extra herbs, rather than allowing them to spoil, whip up a little batch of herb butter to keep in your freezer, and the freshness will live on to grace future meals while saving money
3) you can cook with these herb butters last-minute with ingredients on hand and create impressive results
4) there are endless ways to vary the flavors of these butters
5) you can make as much or little as you want As I always say- good ingredients make good food.
So keep this ingredient, or variations of, ready and within reach. You’ll be forever spoiled… and so will your guests.
Compound butters are made by softening raw butter and mixing it with various flavoring ingredients. The mixture is then rolled into a cylinder in wax paper (like a log of cookie dough). Or, you can make an impromptu disposable pastry bag and pipe the compound butter into florets to freeze for future use. More on this later. Compound butters have two main uses:
– Slices of the firm butter are placed on hot grilled items at service time. The butter melts over the item and sauces it.
– Small portions are swirled into sauces to finish them and give them a desired flavor.
Easy as they are to make, compound butters can transform a plain grilled or broiled steak into a truly special dish.
The Culinary School version of compound butter is called
Maitre d’Hotel Butter
1 lb butter*
1/4 cup of chopped parsley
1.5 fluid oz Lemon Juice
pinch of white pepper
Beat the butter at low-speed until smooth and creamy. Add remaining ingredients and beat slowly until completely mixed. Roll butter into cylinder, then secure in a ziplock bag and store in the freezer. *Note- this makes culinary school portions- much more than any home would want. If you want to try this recipe I might suggest making half, or sharing it with a friend.
Below I will show you the easiest way to do a compound butter… make it with any herb or combination of herbs that YOU like. It is hard to mess up, so just enjoy it. You will quickly see how having compound butters on hand will up your cooking game, completely spoiling you and your guests. Every now and then I will take a little bit of time to make various different herb butters. I clean and chop all of my herbs and arrange in separate dishes, and mix them with a stick or two of butter. There are also times where I have used fresh (expensive) herbs in a recipe and know that I will not have another use for them before they go bad… so I get a stick of butter out, let it get to room temp, and mix in the fresh chopped herbs, then save the herb butter in the freezer for future use. Like I said, you really can’t mess this up- sometimes I go more heavy on the herbs than others. The butter is delicious every way I have done it, without exact measurements and proportions. What I am saying is… be creative and just have fun with the process. Quantity is to taste.
A few Herb Tips:
1) use your knife at a 45 degree angle to get the leaves off of tender herbs like dill, cilantro, parsley
This is, at a glance, about the amount of herbs I use with one stick of butter. Not an exact science. Mix the butter and herbs, transfer to a ziplock bag, and cut the very corner tip off at the bottom of the bag, so you have an improvised pastry bag (that you won’t have to clean out).
Pipe into little florets until you have used all of the butter. I usually pipe them onto a piece of parchment paper or foil. Then I gently put the foil/parchment into the freezer for about 10-15 minutes so the butter hardens. Remove the florets and place in a fresh ziplock bag, labeling it so you know which herbs are in the butter. Always date everything you put in the freezer too, so you know how fresh the items are.
The reason I do the florets like this, and that they do not have to be beautiful, is that I can now grab just one or two, on a whim, and toss them into a skillet when cooking vegetables, or into a rice cooker with the water and rice, or mix into mashed potatoes, or top a steak as it is coming off the grill. Let your imagination guide you on the many uses of these compound butters in your cooking adventures. When you have great ingredients within reach, the quality of your cooking skyrockets.
A practical note: save the wrappers from the butter if you are a baker. they freeze well (keep them neatly folded, all together on a ziplock bag (so they don’t pick up odors or flavors from neighboring foods), and use these wrappers when you need to grease and flour a pan in the future.