Want to become a more impressive cook instantly? Use compound butter! Also known as finishing butter, or beurre composé in French, it’s unsalted butter that has been blended with seasonings.
There are endless variations. Escoffier published 35 combinations in 1903, and cuisine has evolved in many directions since his classic renderings of anchovy butter and beurre à la maître d’hotel (lemon parsley butter).
In Continental cuisine, compound butter is added to the pan to finish a sauce, placed directly atop meat, fish or vegetables to create a flavorful garnish, or mixed into pasta and rice. Just a dab transforms a dish: If you think butter makes everything taste better, think of what butter infused with great seasonings will do.
Herb butter (most often served atop steak), Roquefort butter (ditto) and anchovy butter (a classic with grilled seafood) are staples at fine steakhouses. Read a French restaurant menu and maître d’hôtel butter (lemon parsley) is certain to be garnishing some dish. And that delicious sauce of butter, lemon juice, parsley and garlic served with escargots? Compound butter.
Compound butter made with crawfish and herbs. Photo courtesy Chicken Fried Gourmet.
Compound butters are an easy alternative to more complex sauces. Make them ahead of time and keep them in the freezer, slicing off a pat as needed. They can be modestly to highly flavorful to enhance the main ingredient.
Compound butters are meant to be decorative: not simply melted butter, but punctuated with seasonings and/or color. In addition to the recipe below for crawfish butter, try these compound butter recipes: citrus butters, savory butters, spiced butters and sweet butters.
Served with anything from toasted French bread to grilled fish, oysters or shrimp, this delectable butter will spice up your meal with a Cajun zest. Thanks to chef Michael O’Boyle of Chicken Fried Gourmet in Shreveport, Louisiana, for the recipe.
1. Leave butter to soften at room temperature for 1 hour before starting recipe.
2. Sauté crawfish with 1 tablespoon of Cajun seasoning over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add wine and garlic and simmer till evaporated. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
3. In a food processor combine butter, crawfish and rest of ingredients. Process until all ingredients are incorporated evenly throughout butter.
4. Spread butter mixture out on a plastic wrap and roll into a log. Wrap with a second coating of plastic wrap and seal the ends by twisting. Place in a sealed bag and freeze till solid.
5. Slice off as needed and think of different ways to use it in your everyday cooking: fry breakfast eggs in it, flavor mashed potatoes and cooked vegetables, use on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise.
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