You may have noticed a large pile of chives in the colander last week, alongside the nettle and dandelion greens. They were getting really tall, and I cut them all back a bit, but then what does one do with all those chives? What does one do with a large harvest of any herb? Well, of course, if it’s basil, then you make pesto. But, chives, oh, chives are perfectly matched with unsalted butter and a bit of lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and made into compound butter.
You can make compound butter with almost any herb. But then, you say, what do you do with all that compound butter? You portion it and freeze it, silly! Wrapped up nicely in freezer bags, it keeps for months, so that even when your herbs are covered in snow, or just dormant or just plain dead, you can still have fresh, herbal flavors on potatoes, pasta, atop your favorite steak or chop, or melting into a golden bowl of polenta. I have made parsley, dill, cilantro, and sage and rosemary compound butters. I haven’t actually tried it with basil, because you can freeze pesto as well, and there is never enough pesto. At least around here. Pesto is a salty, herby, garlicky, snappy flavor addition to any soup, or of course pasta. Or heck, potatoes and polenta. I’m getting ahead of myself though. Basil is nowhere near in season here yet. But chives, they are going gangbusters right now. So I’m making compound butter.
You want your butter unsalted, and at room temperature so it will easily be turned into creamy goodness by your stand mixer, while being combined with lemon juice, salt, and a little pepper if you want. Then in go the herbs for a gentle mixing. After it’s all mixed well, I sometimes make a log shape, and roll it in plastic wrap, and put it in a freezer bag. It can be taken out anytime, sliced with a sharp knife dipped in hot water into cute little pats. But sometimes I get a little crazy, and I put it in a pastry bag with a star tip, and look out. It’s butter art.
I pipe those buttery beauties onto a wax paper-lined cookie sheet, pop them in the freezer, then peel them off the paper and place them ever so tenderly into freezer bags. There my fancy-schmancy compound butter swirls wait, like a condiment superpower, for me to place one ever so slightly off-center on top of a baked potato, or a perfectly grilled steak, so as it melts it runs down the side a little bit and makes mouths water.
I almost forgot to give you the recipe.
Herb Compound Butter
It’s really more a ratio than a recipe, try it with all kinds of herbs, or a mix of your favorite herbs, as long as they’re fresh, and minced very fine. With a knife please; using the food processor to do the mincing will provide you with a lovely herb paste, and that’s not what you want.
1 lb unsalted butter
2 oz chopped herbs
A squeeze of lemon juice (a tablespoon or so)
salt and pepper to TASTE, taste it taste it taste it.
You can do this in a bowl by hand, but it is easier and faster to do in a stand mixer with the paddle. Soften and cream the butter, add the lemon juice, salt and pepper and blend well. Add the herbs last, and gently mix them so you don’t pulverize them. Portion out the butter as you like, and freeze.
See you on the Road.