This 4th of July when all your friends and family are at your place for a backyard cookout, serve up a spectacular spread with the help of flavored butters. Also known as compound butters, flavored butters are the easy way to make everything that comes off your grill as appetizing and delicious as the food pictured on the glossy pages of cooking magazines.
Just imagine impressing your guests with Shallot-Herb Butter topped grilled steaks, chicken breasts and fish fillets with Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Butter melting over them, corn on the cob slathered with Chipotle Butter, and even Rose-Berry Butter frosted cupcakes. These dishes may sound worthy of a restaurant, but you can easily make them at home!
So what exactly is flavored butter?
In its most basic form, flavored butter is nothing more than sweet cultured butter and sea salt, to be enjoyed slathered on bread. At its most luxurious, it’s butter blended with black truffles or caviar. And it can be anywhere in between, with sweet or savory ingredients such as garlic, shallots, fresh herbs, dry spices, cheese, olives, capers, anchovies, mustard, tomatoes, citrus zest, fruit preserves, honey, vanilla, chocolate, or caramel. When flavored butter is served on hot-off-the-grill food, the heat transforms it into a rich, luscious sauce and the flavors bloom.
The best thing about flavored butters is that they couldn’t be easier to make. All you have to do is blend some soft room-temperature butter with a small amount of flavoring and then dollop away. If you like, you can form the flavored butter into a log by rolling it up in a sheet of parchment paper and twisting the ends closed (like it’s a big piece of candy) and then refrigerating it. Once it’s firm, the butter can be unwrapped and sliced, which is a particularly convenient do-ahead solution for entertaining. Prepare a few logs of flavored butter ahead of your cookout, and you’ll be able to enjoy the party as much as your guests do.
In addition to being perfect for jazzing up simple grilled foods, flavored butters are ideal for tossing with steamed seasonal vegetables, mixing into pasta or rice, or melting on pancakes or waffles. They can be used as a spread in sandwiches and panini and on toast and crostini, and they can be the start of countless canapés. The variations are endless. Flavored butters can embellish any meal from a leisurely brunch to a quick weeknight dinner to an over-the-top feast.
So next time everyone is gathering around your grill, make a marvelous meal without the muss or fuss by using flavored butters. And if you’re a guest at the cookout, whip up a couple of different flavored butters and bring them with you—they make fantastic host(ess) gifts. Try these recipes as a starter.
Makes 8 servings
I use Gorgonzola dolce—which is a mild, sweet variety of blue cheese—in this recipe, because it’s creamy and blends almost, but not completely, into the butter. However, any type of blue cheese will do. Top a grilled or seared steak with a generous pat of this butter for a meal worthy of the best steak house. Blue cheese lovers will also enjoy this butter stuffed inside hamburger patties or as a sauce for gnocchi.
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 4 ounces Gorgonzola dolce, crumbled (about 2⁄3 cup lightly packed)
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
- 1⁄8 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
Blend together the butter, Gorgonzola, chives, and salt in a medium-size bowl. Form into a log and refrigerate until firm before slicing and serving.
Whipped Chocolate Butter
Makes 12 servings, or enough frosting for a 9-inch single-layer cake or a dozen cupcakes
Not only is this an indulgent topping for pancakes, waffles, toast, and muffins, it can also be used as a simple buttercream for frosting cakes and cupcakes and for filling sandwich cookies.
- 5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped, or 2⁄3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 12 tablespoons (1 1⁄2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 3⁄4 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Melt the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring frequently. Let cool slightly.
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until light and creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat until blended. Add the chocolate and continue to beat until smooth, stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
To use as a butter, pack into ramekins, pipe, or simply serve by the dollop.
To use as a buttercream frosting, spread onto cooled baked goods, swirling decoratively. Soften and rewhip this butter before using or serving if it’s been chilled or frozen.
- Mint Chocolate Butter: Blend in 1⁄8 teaspoon peppermint extract.
- Mocha Butter: Blend in 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder.
Recipes are Copyright © 2013 by Lucy Vaserfirer and used by permission of The Harvard Common Press. All images are Copyright Lucy Vaserfirer.