Beurre à la maître d’hotel, lemon parsley butter; crayfish compound butter for seafood; pasta tossed with truffle butter; roasted sea bass with herb butter; herb, bourbon-pecan, and gorgonzola butters, ready to spread on bread; last but not least, sweet compound butter for dessert or pancakes. Photos: Brown-Eyed Baker, Chef Michael O’Boyle, WKNOfm.org, Land O’Lakes, Feastie.com.
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, which is the sauce served with escargots).
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 and Roquefort butter are classics atop steak, anchovy butter has long been paired with grilled seafood) are staples at fine steakhouses. On the sweet side, honey butter and strawberry butter have long been a brunch favorite.
These are just a few of the dozens that were long a part of the standard fine-cooking repertory. The compound butter most often used in the U.S.: garlic butter.
A melting dollop of compound butter is an attractive garnish, melting over a piece of beef or fish; or can be used in the kitchen to make a quick pan sauce, adding mouth feel add fat and flavor simultaneously. Whether at a restaurant or at home, it creates an easy upgrade to a simple dish.
But trends in cooking, from cuisine minceur (lighter French food) and Asian-accented dishes, have pushed the one-ubiquitous compound butter to the side.
Fear not, butter lovers: According to Flavor & The Menu, compound butter is currently trending with restaurant chefs.
The new compound butter, however, is modernized with flavors that would not have found their way into Escoffier’s (or Julia Child’s) compound butters:
Hot sauce compound butter, tossed with potato tots or fried vegetables, from Chef Ray Martin of Noodle Fresh in Orange County, California.
Ramp butter for pasta and sea urchin butter for Lobster Bucatini, from Benjamin Lambert at 701 in D.C.
Ribeye with gochujang butter, at Edward Lee’s Succotash in National Harbor, Maryland.
Wasabi-yuzu-kosho butter, at Wolfgang Puck’s Cut in Las Vegas.
Pork belly-sake butter served over pork tenderloin, from Chef Deb Paquettte in Nashville.
Compound Butter As An Appetizer!
Chef Paquette offers a butter tasting as an appetizer—and it’s very popular. Diners get four distinct flavored butters with a French baguette. The flavors change, but recent flavors have included cashew-ginger, mushroom-taleggio-tarragon, saffron chorizo and Steak Diane, which blends the butter with a reduction of beef stock, red wine, thyme and Dijon.
More Compound Butter Ideas From Flavor & The Menu
Avocado + Citrus: Season butter with smashed avocado, zesty chile-lime seasoning and chopped cilantro, shape into a log and chill. Serve over grilled skirt steak, chicken and fish, or slather on grilled Mexican street corn with cotija cheese.
Bacon + Blue cheese: Pair the bold, craveable flavors of crumbled blue cheese and salty-crisp bacon with unsalted butter, coarse black pepper and minced chives. Serve as a signature topper for grilled steak, shrimp, chicken, specialty burgers and roasted potatoes.
Creole + Roasted Garlic + Lemon: Add New Orleans attitude to your menu with a Creole butter seasoned with rich, roasted garlic and caramelized lemon, Louisiana hot sauce and Creole seasoning. This is delicious over grilled oysters, scallops or as a signature butter paired with crusty bread.
Lemon + Rosemary + Asiago: Combine lemon zest, fresh rosemary, sea salt and grated Asiago cheese with unsalted butter. Slice into coins and serve over grilled fish, roast chicken, haricots verts and grilled vegetables. Or spread over grilled flatbread for an appetizer.
Sriracha + Honey: Blend unsalted butter with golden honey and fiery Sriracha sauce for a sweet and spicy flavored butter; spread on a split hot-from-the-oven biscuit and top with a crispy chicken filet and bread-and-butter pickles for a hearty “anytime” breakfast sandwich.
Chipotle butter for corn on the cob.
Gochujang and honey butter on a garlicky seared chicken paillard.
Sriracha and toasted sesame butter on cracked pepper-seared scallops.
Harissa, honey and za’atar butter over cumin-spiced, char-grilled lamb chops.
Aleppo pepper, smoked-salt maple butter over wood-fired Brussels sprouts.
Try roasting items like mushrooms and onions, then finely chop and whip into butters for concentrated flavor.
Toast or lightly fry spices like curry powder, smoked paprika and chile powder before adding to flavored butters.
For a topping butter, consider adding flavorful liquids like wine, reduced citrus juice, soy or mirin. Whip at high speed to marry the flavors; the butter will break, but keep whipping—it will come together again.
Tangerine + Dark Chocolate: Combine European-style unsalted butter with tangerine zest, orange marmalade and chopped pieces of best-quality dark chocolate. Spread over a warm croissant or brioche as a signature brunch option.
For sweet butters, use high-quality flavored syrups like blackberry and toasted hazelnut for consistency.
Cookie butters have been trending on the retail side, to spread on cookie! What else would you do with this Snickerdoodle Cookie Butter recipe?
On The Sweet Side