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11 Compound Butters That Will Get You Out of a Butter Rut

Photo: Claire Lower

I cannot function without butter. I keep at least two types on hand at all times—one for cooking and one for snacking. But I also like to keep a few compound butters around for easy entertaining, even if I’m only entertaining myself in my living room.

Compound butters are exactly what they sound like—butters that have been compounded with other foods to give it a new flavor and (sometimes) texture. You can use pretty much anything. Fruits, vegetables, cheeses, herbs, and other fats are all fair game, and I’ve taken the liberty of rounding up my favorite combinations.

Brie butter

Photo: Dariia Belkina (Shutterstock)

I lost my mind the first time I tried brie butter, at a little wine bar near my old apartment. It was dense and silky, almost like a frosting. Flavor-wise, it’s like the two ingredients agreed to take turns on your tongue. You get hit with the brie right up front, but then the cheese yields to its counterpart, giving way to a creamy, buttery finish. It’s also very easy to make, just combine equal amounts of each (room-temp) ingredient by mass and blend in a food processor until smooth. (Remove the rind for the smoothest results.)

Icelandic yogurt butter

Photo: Claire Lower

This butter is very cultured. She’s light and tangy and effortlessly spreadable, even straight out of the fridge. Just mash 2 tablespoons of skyr or similar yogurt with 4 ounces of room-temp salted butter, then dip some radishes in there, or dollop it onto potatoes (with a little caviar).

Schmaltz butter

Photo: Vladislav Noseek (Shutterstock)

Schmaltz butter—or “chicken butter”—is savory and rich, and absolutely incredible on potatoes, or bread, or steak, if you’re into cross-species buttering. It’s a little more involved than the others, but only slightly (it has molasses in it). Learn how to make it here.

Black garlic butter

Photo: Claire Lower

This dark, moody spread is made with an entire head of black garlic and two sticks of butter. If you’ve never had black garlic before, imagine all the flavors you associate with roasted garlic, eliminate the harsh ones, and add a little balsamic vinegar reduction; that is what black garlic tastes like.

Caramelized onion butter

Photo: Claire Lower

Garlic butter has been done. Now is the time of caramelized onion butter. (Fine. You can keep garlic butter too.) To make caramelized onion butter, you’ll need to caramelize a couple of onions, let them cool completely, then blend them with a stick of room-temp butter, a little salt, and a big pinch of MSG. Use it to make caramelized onion bread, toss it with pasta or rice, or plunk it on top of your favorite piece of meat or fish.

Fish sauce butter

Photo: Claire Lower

Technically, fish sauce butter isn’t a true compound butter, as it’s melted, but it’s so good I’m including it anyway. It is, as you can probably guess, packed with funky umami. I like to pour it over popcorn, but you could do the same to a vegetable, I guess. Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter, whisky in a teaspoon or two of fish sauce, then and a pinch or so of brown sugar to taste. (Don’t like fish sauce? You can get similar results with soy sauce butter or anchovy butter.)

Steakhouse butter

Photo: Claire Lower

Steakhouse butter varies from establishment to establishment, but in my (steak)house we make ours with horseradish, capers, MSG, and a little bit of Worcestershire sauce. Melt a big knob of it on a steak, or spread it on bread and chase it down with a martini.

Duck frosting

Photo: Claire Lower

This whipped delicacy is basically savory duck frosting. It’s rich, smokey, and a little meaty, and great on everything from potatoes to corn muffins. Just as with a sweet buttercream, you must make sure the two fats are at room temperature, otherwise your frosting will be greasy, and no one like greasy frosting.

Bacon butter

Photo: Claire Lower

We’ve done chicken and duck fat, now it’s time for pork. As you can probably guess by now, bacon butter is made by combining bacon fat and butter, and it is incredible on tomato toast, or breakfast toast, or midnight toast.

Apple brandy butter

Photo: Claire Lower

This boozy butter makes incredible, if slightly fucked up, cinnamon-sugar toast. It tastes like Applejack—sweet and fruity, with subtle hints of vanilla and baking spices, then gives way to the burn, which makes an acute impact before being quelled by the fat from the butter.

A compound butter terrine

Photo: Claire Lower

If you can’t decide which butter to make, you can always make several and layer them into a terrine. I made one with basil butter and Meyer lemon butter, and stuck some radishes in there for a modern art kind of look. (I’m not sure it was successful, but there is a reason I’m a writer and not a visual artist.)



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