Make your weeknight meals unforgettable with compound butter
Need a quick tip to amp up your weekday meals? Toya Boudy, the New Orleans chef and author of "Cooking for the Culture," says try compound butter, which just means butter mixed with seasoning.
I used to think of compound butter as best used with a steak, adding a layer of delicious flavor to a sizzling piece of beef. Boudy, in her cookbook, suggests using compound butter to jazz up vegetables or putting a pat on a simple chicken breast or pork chop to make it into a meal to remember.
Compound butters are quick to make. They also freeze well, so with a little advanced preparation you can make a weekday meal that dazzles.
A true New Orleans cook
Boudy was born and raised in New Orleans, and her cooking makes that clear. Many people know the food, like beignets, po-boy sandwiches or barbecue shrimp, found in the city's restaurants. In her cookbook, subtitled "Recipes and Stories from the Streets of New Orleans to the Table," Boudy shares the way Black New Orleanians eat at home.
More:Learn how Black New Orleanians cook at home in new book
She includes recipes for stuffed bell peppers, lemon pepper green beans, fried fish and four ways to make a grilled cheese sandwich.
She is inspired by her family's table, but also her high school job, where she made hot sausage po-boys. And while Boudy knows how to treat herself with Expensive A** Deviled Eggs topped with caviar, she also reminisces in the book about the peanut butter cookies she made as a child with ingredients from a commodity food box.
How to make a compound butter
In "Cooking for the Culture," Boudy has four recipes for compound butter: garlic parmesan, cinnamon, smoky feta crumbles and lemon pepper. But they are really more suggestions than recipes.
Take two sticks of softened butter, and then mix in whatever flavors you like. Fresh herbs. Assertive cheeses. A store-bought spice blend. Even an entire head of roasted garlic.
"I mean keep the vampires away heavy garlic butter," Boudy said.
If the butter will go on bread, keep the seasonings more restrained, because the butter will be the main flavor. For bread, Boudy likes lavender, truffle or rosemary garlic.
"Now it's really popular to have those butter boards," she said.
If the compound butter will go on meat or fish, the seasoning can be assertive.
"The stronger butter, you want it to be absorbed by something," she said. "You can get adventurous with chiles and jalapeños."
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Compound butter can be made in advance and frozen. Pack the butter into an ice cube tray before freezing to create individual portions. To make sure the frozen butter does not absorb off flavors, wrap it in plastic wrap and then store it in a freezer bag.
The frozen butter needs about an hour to thaw.
And if you want to get fancy, Boudy recommends finding silicon models in various shapes to freeze the butter.
"You could get crafty as hell," Boudy said.
Compound butters from 'Cooking for the Culture'
Compounds can make the world go 'round! In culinary school we made compound butters at the top of the semester. I guess you can say that was sort of a needed ingredient on our class supply list. Lemon butter, garlic, Cajun, cinnamon butter… the list can go on. You don't have to be a culinary student to have these on hand to make cooking easier and tastier. Compound butter is amazing with breakfast bagels!
Now, the formula is pretty easy: just 1 cup (2 sticks) of softened butter and the seasoning or flavor of your choice! Sweet or savory. You can make a compound butter and freeze it for up to 3 months! You can find cool molds online, too.
GARLIC PARMESAN BUTTER: Mix together 1 cup of room-temperature butter, 6 tablespoons of shredded or grated Parmesan cheese, and 6 garlic cloves, minced.
CINNAMON BUTTER: Mix together 1 cup of room-temperature butter and 1.5 teaspoons of cinnamon.
SMOKY FETA CRUMBLE BUTTER: Mix together 1 cup of room-temperature butter, 1.5 tablespoons of smoked paprika and 6 tablespoons of feta crumbles.
LEMON PEPPER BUTTER: Mix together 1 cup of room-temperature butter, 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of cracked black pepper.
(Recipe from "Cooking for the Culture: Recipes and Stories from the Streets of New Orleans to the Table" [Countryman Press] by Toya Boudy.)
Todd A. Price writes about food and culture in the South. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.