Dsc_0114                                                                                                          Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

Compound butter: Compound butter—whole butter mixed with aromats, seasonings and acid—is one of the more easy and satisfying sauces available to the home cook.  It’s especially good with grilled meats and fish and a smart strategy given that grilling doesn’t create, as a byproduct of the cooking, a sauce base the way braising or pan roasting do.  A compound butter can be made to pair with virtually anything, and because butter is usually on hand in the fridge, it’s a great sauce or garnish to use in a pinch.  The most common form is called beurre maitre d’ hotel, or hotel butter (parsley, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper).  Butter mixed with shallot and fines herbes would be excellent with roast chicken, butter mixed with citrus zest would be excellent atop poached salmon, minced chipotle peppers, lime juice and cilantro on grilled steak, et cetera.  When composing compound butter, you should think of it as you would a sauce—seasoning it with salt and pepper, adding an acidic component for balance and contrast (citrus or wine, for instance) and appropriate aromatics—fresh herbs and shallot are most common.  To make a compound butter, use a rubber spatula to press and fold the seasonings and aromats into room temperature butter.  It can be served out of a ramekin but restaurant kitchens typically form the creamy butter into a log using plastic wrap, and chill it in an ice bath to maintain it’s cylindrical shape as it hardens; it can then be sliced into appealing discs when ready to use.

At the CIA in Rudy Smith’s intro to hot foods, I did one with chopped rosemary and a cabernet sauvignon for broiled lamb chops.  At the Cleveland restaurant Sans Souci, I did a standard hotel butter atop grilled salmon.  Last night, my father brought over some steaks to grill, so I made the above compound butter—a maitre d butter with some espelette pepper thrown in for some zing as well as minced shallot.  If I’d had chipotles in adobo sauce, I’d have used those.  Compound butters are quick, easy, and look beautiful as they melt over sizzling steak or grilled fish.