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.