When it’s corn season I am always asked about flavored butters and how to make them. Herb butter, also called compound butter, is easy to make: Just mix fresh herbs with softened butter. There are plenty of variations and uses.
A little pat of flavored butter puts a serious flavor twist on corn, makes steaks taste richer and is superb on a juicy burger. It also does wonders as a spread for grilled bread or tossed with some fresh-off-the-grill vegetables. And a little goes a long way.
To make a compound butter, start with softened unsalted butter (you can use salted butter if that’s all you have).
Place 1 stick (½ cup) softened butter in a mixing bowl and mash with a fork. If using fresh herbs, rinse and thoroughly pat them dry. Mix in chopped herbs and/or seasonings. Generally, 1½ to 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped herbs is plenty. Scrape the mixture onto plastic wrap and shape the butter into a log. Refrigerate until well chilled and use as desired.
If, however, the butter isn’t softened enough, try this method: Take it out of its wrapper and place it on a piece of plastic wrap. Place another piece of plastic wrap on top and roll over it with a rolling pin. Sprinkle with fresh herbs, fold butter over herbs and roll again.
Compound butters keep about a week in the refrigerator. For longer storage, place the wrapped log in a freezer bag and freeze for up to one month. You also can freeze just until firm and cut into slices, then freeze the individual slices. That way, you can take out only what you need.
Here are some good combinations from the Free Press Test Kitchen. All use 1 stick (½ cup) of softened butter.
■Tarragon butter: Mix butter with 3 teaspoons dried tarragon or 5 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon, 2 teaspoons minced fresh curly parsley, 2 teaspoons granulated garlic and ½ teaspoon salt. Use with beef, fish, poultry and vegetables.
Basil butter: Mix butter with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, 1 tablespoon chopped chives, pinches of salt and black pepper. Use as a spread for bruschetta or on grilled zucchini, fish or chicken.
Sun-dried tomato butter: Mix butter with 4 chopped large sun-dried tomatoes, salt and pepper. Great on grilled fish or chicken or as a topping for turkey burgers.