Compound butters are so versatile, easy to make and convenient. Flavor combinations are endless and the prepared butters can be stored in the freezer for months. Once you learn the basics on making compound butters you can let your creativity go crazy and customize flavored butters to pair with your favorite foods.
I usually have three or four different compound butters in my freezer at any given time. They make an instant last minute sauce for a wide variety of meats. You can also toss a pat of compound butter in with your vegetables at the end of the cooking time to coat them with another layer of desired flavor.
Above is a dish I prepare in the Dordogne valley of France. I take a medallion of beef tenderloin and sear it, serve it over toasted brioche with a red wine reduction. To take it to the next level, I serve it with a Foie Gras-Chive Compound Butter.
I love to cook at home with my immersion circulator “Sous Vide” and compound butters are the perfect way to finish off a Sous Vide dish. Here are a few examples of “Sous Vide” dishes I prepare and compound butters I have served with them:
- Sous Vide Chicken Thighs with a Red Wine-Mushroom Butter (See recipe below)
- Smoked Hanger Steak with a Chimi Churri Compound Butter
- Double-cut Pork Chop with an Almond, Fig & Port Wine Butter
- Lamb Chops with a Confit Garlic-Rosemary Butter
To make these compound butters you follow a basic formula and attempt to pack as much flavor into a butter and still have it hold together. Too much solid product, and the resulting butter will crumble. Often, I will start a savory butter off by sautéing onions, shallots and/or garlic. One way to get intense flavor into a butter is to reduce liquids like wines, liqueurs and juices until they are almost dry. The best way to achieve this is to cook a product first (like onions, mushrooms or figs), add the liquid and reduce until the liquid is mostly gone. Butter does not play nice with liquids. Often when I make a sauce like my Smoked Tomato Confit or a Chimi Churri sauce, I will have some leftover. This is the perfect opportunity to incorporate the sauce into a compound butter, preserving the sauce in a convenient form for future meals.
See my post “Sous Vide 101” to learn more about Sous Vide cooking.
Fish is the perfect canvas for a compound butter. Throw a piece of salmon on the grill or sauté a piece of cod and top them with a pat of compound butter from your freezer. Another channel to explore is “sweet compound butters” to use on desserts or breakfast entrees. Here are some ideas for inspiration:
- Tunisian Seared Cod with a Roasted Shallot Butter
- Grilled Salmon Steak with a Dill-Lemon Butter
- Honey-Seared Duck Breast with a Raspberry-Scallion Butter
- Waffles with a Maple-Blueberry Butter
- French Toast with a Peach-Bourbon Butter
- Raisin Bread Pudding with an Amaretto-Caramel Butter
Below is a recipe for a Red Wine-Mushroom Butter that I always have on hand. I like to use various mushrooms (see Chanterelles in photo above) in place of the Portabellas and will change up the herbs some times, using fresh thyme, chives or even tarragon. I used white wine in place of the red wine with the chanterelles to maintain the beautiful golden color. Red wine in your reduction will turn your compound butter a beautiful shade of pink. Follow the steps and techniques in the recipe below and make substitutions to create your own unique flavor combinations.
Red Wine-Mushroom ButterCourse: SauceDifficulty: Easy
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 pound portabella mushrooms, small dice
1 cup dry red wine
1 pound, plus 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, soft
1/4 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Melt the 1 Tablespoon butter in a medium-sized sauté pan. Add the onions and cook for 3 minutes. Add the diced mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. Add the red wine and cook until the mixture is dry.
- Spread the mushroom mixture out on a plate and refrigerate until cool.
- When cool, place the mushroom mixture in a bowl with the rest of the butter and Italian parsley and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
- Spoon the butter out onto parchment paper, forming a thick 1 1/2-inch-wide log. Roll into a smooth log and set up in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Slice into 3/4-inch-thick round slices and bring to room temperature just before serving.