Subscribe

10 ways to use flavored butter

Having a compound butter in your fridge is like having a little black dress in your closet. It’s easy to throw on at the last minute and can dress up any dish at the table, from simple chicken breasts or fish fillets to grains and vegetables.

Also known as flavored butters, these handy condiments can greatly enhance your dishes with added fat and flavor, but they are much simpler and easier to make than a sauce. All you need is some soft butter, dried herbs, fruit or mushrooms and a food processor or stand mixer to blend them.

Although many people prefer rolling out flavored butters into a sausage shape on parchment or wax paper, Sheana Davis of The Epicurean Connection in Sonoma likes to freeze hers in ice cube trays, then flip them out and keep them in a bag in the freezer for easy access. They also keep longer when frozen.

“That way you can have 2 tablespoons on hand for sauteed salmon or a chicken breast,” she said. “Or you can add it into a rice pilaf or drizzle it on a seasonal vegetable like asparagus or cauliflower.”

Davis, who does catering and makes prepared food for pick-up and delivery from The Epicurean Connection, said she first experimented with compound butters a decade ago while developing recipes for Farmhouse Kitchen in Wisconsin.

Then she added a “butter bar” at her two former cafe locations in Sonoma, selling five flavors a week, ranging from neutral to savory and sweet. Think honey butter on a cornbread muffin, and you get the idea.

“We used toasted bread from Costeaux Bakery for a butter and wine flight,” she said.

Since moving to her kitchen on Eighth Street East in Sonoma, Davis has continued making savory and sweet butters with her to-go meals and catering for local wineries.

One of her most popular flavors is the Meyer Lemon Chive Butter, because the winemakers like to pair it with their chardonnays, sauvignon blancs and viogniers.

“I do phyllo bites with salmon poached in the Meyer Lemon Butter, with crème fraîche and lemon zest,” she said. “They are delicious and beautiful.”

Also popular with red wine lovers is her Wild Mushroom Butter, made with a dried mushroom mix that pairs well with pinot and syrah.

“We make an Israeli couscous with it and add sauteed exotic mushrooms from Gourmet Mushrooms in Sebastopol,” she said. “I put a grilled chicken breast over the top and brush it with more of the mushroom butter.”

Davis also sources fresh pasta from The Pasta Shop in the Rockridge Market Hall in Oakland and likes to melt the mushroom butter over the spinach fettuccine. The fresh pasta is also available at Whole Foods and online (pastashopfresh.com).

For a flavor that straddles the sweet and savory kitchen, Davis shared her recipe for Cherry Black Pepper Butter, which she likes to serve with a Big Bottom Market biscuit (made from a mix) and a few slices of Black Pig Bacon.

“It doesn’t get any more local than that,” she said. “And people love it.”

A filet mignon with a round of Cherry Black Pepper Butter melting over it and a glass of zinfandel on the side is also a good way to use the versatile butter.

“We give the steak a hot sear, let it rest, then roast it off in the oven to finish,” she said. “Then we slice the steak thin, fan out the slices and put the butter on top.”

For the vegetarians, Davis suggests a small, whole roasted cauliflower, roasted in the oven with some Kuri Pumpkin Butter.

“It could be a vegetarian main course,” she said. “Or you could serve it instead of a soup in a multicourse meal.”

For the fall and into the winter, Davis has other buttery flavors up her chef’s coat sleeve, including Fresh Pear with Maple Syrup, perfect for swirling into oatmeal or on waffles, and an Apple Cinnamon Butter, sourced from local orchards and farms.

In July, The Epicurean Connection received a 2021 Snail of Approval award from Slow Food Sonoma County North. The honor is awarded to restaurants, bars, farms, distilleries, wineries, cafes, food trucks and other food businesses pursuing sustainability and practicing the Slow Food values of “good, clean, fair food for all.”

The following recipes are created by Sheana Davis of The Epicurean Connection in Sonoma. She recommends using either Clover Organic, Clover conventional butter or Straus Family Creamery butter.

Meyer Lemon Chive Butter

Makes 1 cup

8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

2 teaspoons lemon olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground white pepper

2 teaspoon dried chives

Place butter in food processor and blend until smooth. Add lemon olive oil and blend for 30 seconds. Add salt and pepper and pulse to combine flavors. Add chives and pulse twice to blend. Place in a ramekin to serve or store in the refrigerator for up to one week. You can freeze in scoops or cubes for up to six months.

Serving suggestion: Use for poaching salmon or over grilled vegetables.

This is a gentle way to cook salmon, which tastes even more buttery and tender from the flavored butter.

Lemon Butter Poached Salmon

Makes 4 servings

1 cup Meyer Lemon Chive Butter (recipe above)

4 6-ounce wild salmon fillets, skin removed

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground white pepper

1 cup white wine of your pairing choice

1 lemon to zest, for garnish

In a saute pan over medium flame, melt the butter. When it’s bubbly, add salmon fillets and season with salt and pepper. Add wine, bring to a simmer, cover and remove from flame. Allow to rest for 15 minutes.

To serve warm over couscous: Place couscous in a large bowl or lunch plate and lay salmon fillet over top. Garnish with lemon zest. Or, alternatively, serve chilled over couscous as a salad.

Other serving suggestion: Use one fillet of the poached salmon in the recipe below.

Phyllo cups are available at supermarkets, either as a shelf-stable product or in the freezer section. This dish can be paired with a sauvignon blanc, chardonnay or pinot grigio.

Lemon Butter Poached Salmon Cups

Makes 24 bites/phyllo cups

1 6-ounce poached salmon fillet

24 mini phyllo cups

¼ cup crème fraîche

Sprinkles of kosher salt and fresh ground white pepper

Lemon zest, for garnish

Place salmon on a plate and flake with fork. Fill each phyllo cup half full with crème fraîche. Finish by filling with flaked salmon and garnish with lemon zest. Serve on a platter and enjoy.

Davis uses the Mushroom Israeli Couscous Seasoning from Whole Spice in Napa (wholespice.com). Ground wild mushroom blends are also available at supermarkets and spice stores. You also can grind dried mushrooms of your choice.

Wild Mushroom Butter

Makes 1 cup

8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

2 teaspoons ground wild mushroom blend

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Place butter in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add ground wild mushroom blend, salt and pepper. Pulse until thoroughly blended.

Place in a ramekin to serve or store in the refrigerator for up to one week. You may freeze in scoops or as cubes and store for up to six months.

Serve with Wild Mushroom Butter Couscous and Wild Mushroom Butter Chicken Breast (recipes below) or toss with cooked spinach fettuccine.

Israeli couscous is also known as pearl couscous and is widely available at supermarkets.

Wild Mushroom Butter Couscous

Makes 4 servings

½ cup Wild Mushroom Butter (recipe above)

1 cup Israeli couscous

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 ½ cups vegetable stock

Melt butter in a small soup pan over medium flame. Add couscous, salt and pepper and saute for two minutes. Add stock and bring to a simmer, reduce heat to a low simmer and cook 10 to 12 minutes or until couscous is tender. Remove from flame and allow to rest for 15 minutes. When ready to serve, fluff with a fork.

Pair this dish with a pinot noir or a syrah.

Wild Mushroom Butter Chicken Breast

Makes 4 servings

4 chicken breasts (or thighs), with skin and bone

½ cup Wild Mushroom Butter, room temperature (recipe above)

2 tablespoons fresh garlic, chopped fine

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare chicken by rubbing it with Wild Mushroom Butter. Sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper.

Place on baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until crispy and golden brown. Remove from oven and serve warm over Wild Mushroom Butter Couscous (recipe above).

Serving option: Serve as a chilled Wild Mushroom Butter Couscous salad by slicing the chicken and mixing together.

Red Kuri squash, also known as Hokkaido pumpkin, originated in Japan. It looks like a Hubbard squash, only it’s smaller, with a hard, thin outer skin and firm flesh that has a sweet, delicate flavor similar to butternut squash.

Kuri Pumpkin Butter

Makes 1 cup

8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

4 ounces Kuri Pumpkin Puree (see note below)

1 to 2 tablespoons maple syrup

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Place butter, Kuri Pumpkin Puree, maple syrup, salt and pepper in food processor and blend until smooth. Place in a ramekin to serve or store in the refrigerator for up to one week. You may freeze in scoops or as cubes for up to six months.

Serving options: Serve Kuri Pumpkin Butter over roasted cauliflower, saute chicken in Kuri Pumpkin Butter or serve over olive oil potatoes.

Note: To roast a kuri squash, cut in halves or quarters, rub olive oil on the skin and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper in a 400-degree oven until flesh is tender, 30 to 45 minutes, depending on size. Let cool, scrape the flesh from the skin and puree in a food processor. You also can roast whole, but you need to pierce the skin with a fork first so the steam can escape.

This dish can be paired with a gewürztraminer or riesling. It’s OK to use precut cauliflower.

Kuri Pumpkin Butter Roasted Cauliflower

Makes 4 servings

1 pound small cauliflower heads, or one large cauliflower cut into 1-inch slices, cores removed

4 ounces Kuri Pumpkin Butter, melted (recipe above)

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place cauliflower on a baking sheet. Drizzle with melted Kuri Pumpkin Butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake in oven for 15 to 20 minutes; check to see if tender by inserting toothpick. Remove from oven and serve warm.

This is an example of a versatile, flavored butter that can be served with both sweet and savory dishes.

Cherry Black Pepper Butter

Makes ¾ cup

½ cup dried cherries, pitted and finely chopped or ground

4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Place dried cherries and butter in a food processor and blend until smooth and thoroughly blended. Add salt and pepper and pulse until blended. Place in a ramekin to serve or store in the refrigerator for up to one week. You may freeze in scoops or cubes for up to six months.

Serve with Big Bottom Market Biscuits and Black Pig Bacon as a breakfast sandwich or appetizer (see recipe below).

Alternative serving option: Serve Black Cherry Butter on a filet mignon from Bud’s Custom Meat in Penngrove and wild rice pilaf from Rancho Gordo in Napa.

Davis suggests serving this dish as a fall brunch, paired with a bottle of cabernet or zinfandel. The Big Bottom Biscuit Mix is available at the Big Bottom Market in Guerneville, The Epicurean Connection in Sonoma or online (bigbottommarket.com). Black Pig Bacon, produced by John Stewart of Forestville, is available at Oliver’s, Pacific and Andy’s markets, among other stores, or online (blackpigmeatco.com).

Cherry Black Pepper Butter Biscuit Sandwich

Makes 4 servings

1 pound Black Pig Bacon

½ cup Cherry Black Pepper Butter, room temperature (recipe above)

1 package Big Bottom Market Biscuits

To prepare Black Pig Bacon: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place bacon on a baking sheet and place in oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until cooked to desired crispness. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Prepare Big Bottom Market Biscuits according to directions (just add water).

Slice open a warm biscuit and slather with Black Cherry Pepper Butter, add slices of Black Pig Bacon and enjoy.

Other serving suggestions: For brunch, serve with a poached egg; or for dinner, as a side dish to filet mignon.

Staff Writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56

Diane Peterson

Features, The Press Democrat

I’m interested in the home kitchen, from sheet-pan suppers to the latest food trends. Food encompasses the world, its many cultures, languages and history. It is both essential and sensual. I also have my fingers on the pulse of classical music in Sonoma County, from student mariachi bands to jazz crossover and symphonic sounds. It’s all a rich gumbo, redolent of the many cultures that make up our country and the world.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette