When the herbs are plentiful in my garden and the garlic is harvested I start to think about ways to use and preserve them for when summer is long gone. You can dry them, of course, and some even freeze well but it is my experience that they lose some of their vibrancy. So I am always looking for ways to use them so they remain bright for future applications. One of my favorite things to do with them is to make compound butters. When you see that on a menu it sounds fancy and complicated but nothing could be further from the truth. Compound butter is simply butter creamed with other ingredients such as herbs, garlic, wine, shallots and so on. The French word for it is beurre compose.
The thing is, not only is it easy to make, it freezes very well, lasts a long time and has many applications. I have made ramp butter, basil butter, parsley and garlic butter and sage butter to name a few. You can add things like white wine or in the following recipe, lemon juice or just use the herbs as is. I have added crushed red pepper flakes when I have had an abundance of chilis and they are dried. Freeze them in a log wrapped in plastic wrap and just slice off the amount you need.
How do you use them? Let me count the ways. I really can’t as you are limited only by your imagination. I use them to baste chicken or turkey, as a topper for steaks, lamb chops, fish or shellfish, slather on bread, season pasta, rice or vegetables. Match the herb with the dish. For example, we know sage is often used with turkey so it would be a natural pairing. Rosemary and lamb go well together so there is another. Get the picture?
Today I made Lemon Tarragon Butter that I plan to use as a seasoning for smashed baby red potatoes. This recipe, which came from the people from Organic Valley, can be adapted to any combination of herbs and flavorings you choose.
Recipe Makes 12 or more servings
8T unsalted butter, room temperature
1T lemon zest
2t fresh squeezed lemon juice
2T fresh tarragon, chopped
- Put all ingredients in a small bowl. Blend with a wooden spoon until creamy.
- Place the butter mixture in a log on a piece of plastic wrap, roll to shape it and twist the ends.
- Chill in refrigerator until butter is set, about 1 hour. Or chill for 1/2 hr. and then use a pastry bag with decorative tip to pipe butter onto cooked fish, poultry or vegetables. If you made a log, cut into rounds for serving.
If preserving for future use, place in a freezer bag after it is chilled and use as desired.
Tonight I am serving smashed baby reds with leftover grilled chicken. To make them simply boil potatoes in salted water until they are fork tender (fork goes in and out of potatoes easily when poked). Using a potato masher, smash them until they reach your desired texture . Add lemon tarragon butter (amount depends on how many potatoes you are making) and mix gently. Taste for salt and season as needed. Easy, right?
Another favorite way of mine to preserve herbs is to make pesto. It is not just for basil anymore! I will, however, leave that for future blog post.
I hope you will try your hand at compound butters and let me know what combinations you come up with. I look forward to hearing from you!