Just because I create recipes for a living doesn’t mean I’m a fancy cook. In fact, 99% of the time, I make and dine on things that are crazy-simple.
A grilled chicken breast. A sautéed fish fillet. Roasted vegetables.
But when I’m thinking about making that chicken breast or fish fillet, I think about how I might make it a little more interesting. Often, the answer is something I have in the freezer—flavored butter. I keep tons of it around, in all different flavors for all different occasions.
Because flavored butter is the bomb.
1. It’s simple.
Flavored butter—also known as compound butter—is just that. Butter that’s been flavored by combining it with other ingredients—herbs, garlic, and/or shallots, for example. It’s not foreign or complicated, and in fact if you’ve ever made garlic bread—if you’ve combined softened butter and garlic to spread on bread before toasting it—you’ve made flavored butter.
2. It’s versatile.
Now that you understand what it is, why limit flavored butter to being garlic-flavored? And why limit it to a bread spread?
The possibilities are near-endless.
Combine butter with shallots, basil, and cilantro, then spread it on corn on the cob. Combine butter with orange, lemon, and lime zests and toss it with steamed peas. Combine butter with dill, feta, and black olives and stir it into rice. Or go sweet—combine butter with ginger, marmalade, and baking spices to spread on pancakes.
(Yes, you can combine those ingredients with those dishes without first making flavored butter. But having flavored butter on hand is what allows for quickly and easily upgrading those otherwise simple foods.)
My very favoritest way to enjoy flavored butter?
On a just-cooked chicken breast, fish fillet, steak, or chop, just a little pat on top when the food comes off the grill or stovetop. As the meat rests, the flavored butter melts, seeping in and even making a bit of a sauce. And taking your cooking from simple to sublime.
Grilled Chicken with Sundried Tomato, Blue Cheese, and Rosemary Butter (pictured), for example.
3. It’s easy to make.
If you can stir, you can make flavored butter—just combine softened butter and your flavoring ingredients in a bowl.
Even better, if you can push a button, you can make flavored butter in a food processor. I like this method because a) you don’t have to remember to let your butter soften, and b) the food processor does the work of chopping your flavoring ingredients.
4. It’s easy to have on hand.
Plop your flavored butter onto a sheet of parchment or waxed paper, fold the paper over the butter, then use something with a straight edge, like a ruler, to push the butter into a log. Roll the log up right in the paper, label it, cover it with plastic wrap, and pop it in the fridge or freezer. And then the next time you ask yourself how to make something a little more interesting—noodles, steamed potatoes, sautéed asparagus, a burger—it’s easy to slice off a few pats and return the rest to the freezer for another day.
You can even spread it on bread. But instead of plain ol’ garlic bread, you can make Green Olive, Garlic, and Chive Bread.
See? The bomb.
A few of my favorite recipes using flavored butter:
New York Steaks with Martini Butter, a recipe I created for Fine Cooking magazine
Smoky Grilled Salmon with Citrus Jalapeno Butter, a recipe I created for Clean Eating magazine
Bacon and Sweet Potato Biscuits with Smoky Honey Butter, a recipe I created for the National Pork Board