Butter….. sigh…. Do we even need to say more? Just the word makes our mouths start to water as our taste buds remember all the delicious touches that butter adds to any dish.
Think about a humble onion. Now re-imagine that same vegetable sauteed in butter until it caramelizes to light brown perfection, giving the strands of onion a velvety and deep taste that cannot be achieved with any other fat.
Or think about mashed potatoes, and the pats of butter that sit snugly among the cloud-like top of the dish, ready to melt as soon as it goes in the oven, spreading and penetrating deep into the spuds.
What about simple butter cookies. Just a couple of ingredients and a quick recipe for an I-cannot-stop-eating snack.
Here at The Londinium Project we’re busy preparing for Thanksgiving. As we mentioned in this post a couple of months ago, the trick to a great dinner party is being prepared and checking items off your list well in advance. And yes, you need a list! There are always so many little things that might otherwise fall through the cracks only to be remembered at the last minute, when either you don’t have the time for them or you don’t have the time for them. So being prepared is the best battle plan.
We have to admit that this year we don’t feel as organized as we usually are. We have a basic idea of our menu and our cooking schedule but we still have a long list with very little checked off. This weekend for example, we decided to clean our oven. We’re used to one of those self-cleaning gas ovens. You simply leave it on for four hours and then vacuum the remaining ash from the bottom, and voila, a perfectly clean oven. Not with our electric one unfortunately. While it looks sleek and all that, cleaning it is a pain in the you-know-what. We tried elbow grease to no avail so now we’re waiting for some heavy duty oven cleaner to be shipped so that we can give it a shot.
But yesterday we managed to at least strike one item off our list, and it involves butter. Every year we make a batch of herb butter to slather the turkey with, and have leftovers for the rest of the year. It’s a relatively quick process which can yield a little or a lot, depending on how much you want to make. In our case, we err on the side of too much. We tend to freeze it so that it keeps for longer and that way we always have compound butter whenever we need it.
For years now we’ve been following a recipe from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles cookbook, but multiply the amount of herbs according to how much butter we’re using. For one cup, or two sticks of butter, we use the following:
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Salt and pepper to taste
However, we decided to make more yesterday. We bought two packets, ie 4 sticks or two cups, or unsalted butter and then added another stick or so of salted butter, which meant we needed to reduce the amount of salt we added later on.
We wanted to use French butter, which is delicious, but we didn’t get to Borough Market on Saturday so M&S was our best alternative. Also, the herbs you use depend on what you like. We were thinking about adding some crushed red pepper and minced garlic into some of our mix, but ran out of time, so we might just do that at a later date.
Now ideally you should wait to get the butter to room temperature so that it’s easy to mix. But who has the time for that? Our butter wasn’t rock solid, so we cut it all in small pieces, put half in a bowl and melted the other half in a saucepan. While the butter was melting, we chopped all the herbs, keeping an eye on the butter to make sure it didn’t burn. We then poured the melted butter over the other half, allowing the heat to soften the rest. The result is very soft and easy-to-manage butter quickly. The next step is to combine all the other ingredients and mix thoroughly using a wooden spoon.
Now we could easily just put this in a plastic container for storage, and we have done that in the past. But a better method, which is what Mr Bourdain recommends, is to roll the mixture into a log-like formation in plastic wrap and refrigerate. This provides better portion control since you can just cut chunks of it rather than have to scoop hardened butter from a container. So it’s just an extra step that will save you time in the future.