Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Compound Butter: a Love Letter to Mark Bittman

I love Mark Bittman.  His cookbook How to Cook Everything is by far the most useful book I own.  My kitchen savvy brother in law recommended it to me, and now it's the book I most recommend for people looking for a good cookbook. It's the perfect reference for when you need to know basic things about cooking real food.  Sometimes I just want to look something up in a book rather than online. (Thank you mother the librarian!) For example, have you ever wanted to know how to cook an artichoke? Bittman tells you several ways, complete with illustrations.  I love the book because it's absolutely useful and simple.  It also happens to include good tips, like toasting banana bread (his recipe for which I will use for the rest of my life) and putting peanut butter on it. YES!!!  Pick it up the next time you see a copy, you will not be disappointed. Or buy it on Amazon right here...

On to the compound butter part of this post.  I often hear terms like "compound butter" but I didn't actually know what it was until this week when I finally consulted How to Cook Everything during my Thanksgiving recipe gathering.  Basically, it's butter with natural flavors blended in, like garlic or herbs. Used in sauces, traditionally, but sounds like a perfect accompaniment to homemade bread...

I went with the garlic compound butter, which according to Bittman is "essential".  Here's how it works:   

Garlic Compound Butter 
(Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman)

1 tablespoon + 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, the 1/2 stick at room temperature
1-2 large cloves garlic, minced (depends on how much you like garlic!)
salt and pepper to taste
lemon juice to taste (about a conservative splash, here)

1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small sauce pan on low heat. Add garlic and cook until the garlic softens, 2 or 3 minutes. Let cool.
2. In a small food processor or with a fork, mix/mash garlic with the room temperature butter. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.
3.  Pop it in the fridge if you don't plan to use it right away, otherwise, keep it at room temperature and spread it on some freshly baked bread... NOW! 

Voila!  Garlic compound butter!
Sounds fancy, but so simple.

Get creative! Mix something wild with butter and let me know how it goes!!

Loving the simple things,