We all know butter makes it better. From the nutty taste of browned butter, to the, salty, rich, dense flavors delivered by simple, flavorful pats of butter on a hot,yeasty roll.
But here’s the truth, butter packs a whallop of flavor even if you don’t heavily lace a dish with it. Think back to the last time you had nicely trimmed, cooked-to-order steak with a dollop of gorgonzola butter melting on top. Just that little bit of richness made your taste buds tingle, didn’t it? And butter is a great host for almost any additional flavor. Chop something up, stir it into softened butter and you have the perfect accessory to finish any dish.
You’ve steamed carrots, or broccoli or snaps because that’s the best way to keep the nutrients in. But, hey, if you toss the hot vegetables with a tablespoon of butter just before serving, then you have nutricious and delicious. If you are making those vegetables for two to four people, you are adding very few extra calories per serving. In fact, if you have a little more time, slowly brown the butter and some slivered almonds in a saute pan before you dress the dish.
But if you don’t feel like messing with the extra step every time you cook, take 30 minutes and a pound of softened butter and prepackage some flavored butters for the freezer. Then you just remove the butter you need and drop it in whatever you’re making.
Using salted or unsalted butter, roll the flavored butter in balls, set them on a cookie sheet and freeze them. Then package them in zip-top freezer bags. Label the bags, so no one with a serious aversion to anchovies gets an unpleasant surprise.
You can also shape the flavored buter into a log, wrap it in waxed paper, slip it into a freezer bag and slice off discs as needed.
Now you have the ability to add zing to everything from rice and oatmeal to roasted meats and vegetables. And bread, never forget the bread.
Here are a few great combos and the dishes they enhance. As a rule of thumb, for each stick of butter start with 1 teaspoon of strong spices, condiments like mustard or ginger or dried herbs; 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs; one garlic clove; and 2 tablespoons of cheese. Taste the mix and add more if needed.
Chopped cranberries, grated orange peel and toasted pecans for pancakes, baked sweet potatoes and roast pork loin.
Bourbon and dijon mustard for pork chops or sauteed chicken
Blue cheese, for crackers, steak or baked potatoes
Pitted kalamata olives, fresh garlic, basil and olive oil for easy garlic bread, pasta, or fish
Grated lime and lemon peel for any seafood or black beans
Honey and grated lemon peel for waffles, biscuits or green vegetables
Anchovy paste and grated lemon peel for pasta or seafood
Minced fresh ginger, grated lime peel and dark sesame oil for grilled chicken or stir fries
Minced red onion, cilantro and cumin for black beans and rice, fajitas, or warm flour tortillas
Fig preserves and Dijon mustard for ham biscuits