Thursday, September 18, 2014

How to Make Compound Butter


Simply put compound butter is a combination of seasonings and a bit of acid mixed with softened butter and allowed to get cold in the refrigerator to set. Probably the most famous of compound butters is a French butter by the name of Maitre d’Hotel butter. Every graduate of Le Cordon Bleu quickly learns that any meal can be enhanced by using compound butters.

Don’t let the fancy French name fool you. Maitre d’Hotel butter and any of the other members of the compound butter family are easy to make at home. You simply whip flavorings such as aromatics, seasonings and acid such as citrus or wine into soft butter with a rubber spatula, roll it into a log, cover, and refrigerate it until you are ready to use it. It can be made in advance and holds well in the freezer for several months. Compound butter is probably the easiest way to make a quick sauce and is excellent with grilled meats, chicken and fish, used as a sandwich spread, or to finish various sauces. The next time you fry an egg in butter, try Maitre d'Hotel butter in place of your normal butter. You'll really appreciate the taste difference.

My two favorite compound butters are Maitre d’Hotel butter, which is soften butter mixed fresh herbs and lemon juice, and a red wine flavored compound butter with minced shallots, fresh herbs, and dry red wine that we enjoy on grilled steak.

However, after searching the internet recently for compound butter recipes, I realized that the only limit to the flavorings you use in compound butter is your imagination. I found dozens and dozens of fantastic & unusual flavor combinations. I tried two exciting new compound butters that I found on the internet and there are others that I will tell you more about at the end of the post.



Today I’ve featured 3 compound butters – Maitre d’Hotel on the left, chipotle butter in the center and a curry butter with cilantro and mint on the right. If you would like to come up with your own flavorful combination , Michael Rulman, best-selling author, cooking authority and good buddy of Anthony Bourdain, suggests that you “think of it as you would a sauce – seasoning the butter with salt and pepper, adding an acidic component for balance and contrast (citrus or wine for instance) and appropriate aromatics – fresh herbs and shallots are most common.”   For more on compound butter from Michael Rulman, here’s a link to his blog.



I was offered an opportunity to try President premium European butter, made in the Normandy region of France, and that is the butter I’ve used in these recipes. President Butter is France’s #1 selling butter, where people consume more butter than anywhere else in the world. It is made cultured cream in the European tradition. President Premium butter is available in many supermarkets in the US, including Publix stores. We were anxious to taste French butter, because we were spoiled with the wonderful imported European butters available in the Bahamas when we lived there. We found President Butter to be rich and creamy and would highly recommend it.



The people at President sent three different butters to test – stick, spreadable, and a spreadable one with sea salt. I used stick butter in making the compound butters in this post. I will post more about the spreadable one next week.



Maitre d’Hotel Butter
Adapted from The New York Times Cookbook
Printable Recipe

1 stick best quality butter, softened to room temperature
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 - 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Using a rubber spatula, cream the butter and mix with remaining ingredients, adding lemon juice a little at a time and stirring until well blended. Turn the mixture out onto a piece of plastic wrap, form a log about 4” long, wrap closely in the plastic wrap and refrigerate for a least an hour. Slice into discs when ready to serve. Can be wrapped and frozen for several months. Great on steak or other grilled meat.



Chipotle Compound Butter
From Austin Food Lovers
Printable Recipe

1 stick best quality unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 tablespoon minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
Zest and juice of 1 small lime
½ teaspoon sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir with a spatula until well mixed. Turn mixture out onto a piece of plastic wrap and form a log about 4 inches long. Wrap closely in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a least 1 hour or until firm. Slice into ½ inch discs when ready to use. Can be wrapped and frozen for several months. Great on any grilled meat, especially pork



Curry Compound Butter with Mint & Cilantro 
Adapted from Celebration Generation
Printable Recipe

Cilantro & mint may sound like a strange combination, but the mint takes away some of the bite from the cilantro without tasting sweet. Give it a try.

1 stick best quality unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 tablespoon best quality curry powder (I like Madras)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir with a spatula until well mixed. Turn mixture out onto a piece of plastic wrap and form into a log about 4 inches long. Wrap closely in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a least 1 hour or until firm. Slice into ½ inch discs when ready to use. Can be wrapped and frozen for several months. Great on vegetables such as asparagus and green beans.

There is a world of mindboggling combinations of flavored compound butter recipes on the internet. I was particularly impressed with the creative ideas that I found on Celebration Generation. Just to name a few savory combinations - mushroom and rosemary,  jalapeno, cilantro, lime & a splash of tequila, basil pesto (she says is great on popcorn), & caramelized onions with dried mushrooms. There is also has an impressive number of ideas for sweet compound butters including cinnamon or maple syrup and brown sugar, pureed fruit, whiskey raisins, Grand Marnier & dried cranberries. I could go on and on, but click here to see for yourself.

If you prefer your compound butters whipped instead of in a log, here’s a link to a tasty quartet of whipped compound butters from 101 Cookbooks that includes recipes for smoked paprika butter, dry desert lime butter, raw Serrano, and dehydrated strawberry compound butter.

For a excellent step-by-step photo tutorial on how to make compound butter and a great recipe for herb butter, click here to Brown-Eyed Baker.



For better viewing, click on photos to enlarge.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Weekend Bites at Simple Recipes.    
Have a great weekend everyone.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Chocolate Mousse 3 ways – 2 with a Crunch


Can chocolate mousse, that decadent & quintessential creamy French dessert, have a crunch? Why yes it can. For fun Meakin decided to create a light and airy dark chocolate mousse but also one that had a bit of crunch. He started with basic chocolate mousse shown above and used it as a springboard to create two more recipes, each more spectacular than the next.

First, to produce a light and airy mousse rather than a thick and creamy one, he very gently folded in the whipped cream into the basic recipe, which creates a bit of air and makes swirls of whipped cream throughout the chocolate. No one will ever mistake this mousse for pudding.




To achieve a bit of crunch, he’s used two different ideas. The first crunchy mousse has ground bits of dark chocolate coated espresso beans incorporated into the mousse itself, plus a few saved for a garnish on the whipped cream. It’s still light and airy, but you can definitely taste the bit of crunch from the chocolate coated espresso beans. Chocolate covered espresso beans can be found in most supermarkets in the produce section or on line.




The second crunchy mousse goes a step further with ground bits of Toblerone dark chocolate, garnished with Grand Marnier whipped cream, and topped with candied orange peel. Toblerone is a rich Swiss chocolate bar with honey & almond nougats that is available in dark chocolate as well as milk chocolate. It’s available in some supermarkets and on line. To make this mousse’s presentation spectacular, it’s served in a brandy snifter.

We like our chocolate dark so we’ve used bittersweet chocolate, but feel free to substitute semisweet if that’s your preference. No matter which chocolate you choose, you can’t go wrong with chocolate mousse as a dessert. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone say no to chocolate mousse.




Basic Chocolate Mousse
Adapted from The New York Times & How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman – serves 6
Printable Recipe

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (we prefer bittersweet)
3 eggs, separated
¼ cup sugar
½ cup chilled heavy cream
½ teaspoon good vanilla extract

Place a double boiler or small saucepan over low heat and melt butter and chocolate together. Just before chocolate finishes melting, remove pan from the stove and beat chocolate with a wooden spoon until smooth. Transfer chocolate to a bowl and beat in egg yolks with a whisk. Place bowl in the refrigerator while you beat the egg whites.

Beat eggs whites with half the sugar until they hold stiff peaks but are not dry. Set aside while you beat the cream with the remaining sugar and vanilla until the whipped cream holds soft peaks.

Stir a couple of spoonfuls of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it a bit, then fold in remaining whites thoroughly but gently. Fold in the whipped cream very gently to keep the mousse light and airy. You want to see a few swirls of the whipped cream in the mouse. Refrigerate or divide among separate cups. It will chill much faster divided. Serve within a day or two of making.




Crunchy Chocolate Mousse with Chocolate Coated Espresso Bean Bits
From My Carolina Kitchen – serves 6
Printable Recipe

Basic chocolate mousse recipe (see above)
½ cup or so dark chocolate coated espresso beans
1/3 cup chilled heavy cream

Prepare basic chocolate mousse recipe and set aside in refrigerator to chill until you are ready to serve.

Whirl chocolate covered espresso beans in a mini food processor until chopped but not turned to dust, although some dust in inevitable. Stir in most of the processed beans into the chilled chocolate mousse, leaving a few to sprinkle on top of the whipped cream for garnish. Divide mousse into individual servings.

Beat heavy cream until it holds soft peaks. Top mousse with whipped cream and garnish the cream with remaining chopped espresso beans. Serve right away.




Crunchy Chocolate Mousse with Toblerone Dark Chocolate Bits, Grand Marnier Whipped Cream, and Candied Orange Peel
From My Carolina Kitchen – serves 6
Printable Recipe

Basic chocolate mousse recipe (see above)
1 - 3.25 ounce bar Toblerone Swiss pyramid shaped dark chocolate bar wedges
2 tablespoons Grand Mariner orange liqueur, divided
1 navel orange
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup chilled heavy cream

Prepare basic chocolate mousse recipe and set aside in refrigerator to chill until you are ready to serve.

Zest orange into strips and add zest and juice from the orange to a small sauce pan with 1 tablespoons Grand Marnier and sugar and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove to a bowl and let cool in refrigerator.

While the orange zest cools, process 5 of the 6 wedges of the Toblerone dark chocolate in a mini food processor until chopped but not turned to dust, although some dust in inevitable.

Add 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier to the chilled cream & beat until it holds soft peaks.

When ready to serve, divide the mousse into individual serving dishes or brandy snifters. Gently stir most of the Toblerone chocolate bits into the chilled chocolate mousse, leaving some bits for garnish. Top with whipped cream, then garnish cream with remaining Toblerone bits and candied orange peel. Serve right away.




For better viewing, click on photos to enlarge.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes.    
Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Lobster Bisque


Maine lobsters are a big treat, so why not get the most out of them. After our lobster boil a couple of weeks ago, link to post here, when Meakin had live lobsters flown in from Maine, we saved some of the cooked lobster bodies so we could make lobster bisque.

Seafood bisques are smooth and creamy soups of French origin and are very rich. They are based on crustaceans and can be made from lobster, crab, shrimp, or crayfish. Bisques are perfect for special occasions, such as birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays such as Valentine’s Day.



Lobsters can be cooked especially for bisque, but left-over lobster bodies are the most practical to use and work great.  This recipe is from cookbook author & New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman and he says that if you haven’t saved the bodies from a lobster feast, they are available from fish markets, which either give them away or charge minimally. I don’t have any firsthand experience with that, but I am definitely going to look into it when we are in Florida next. Our favorite seafood market is Merrick’s in Cape Coral and they sell live Maine lobsters, so I am going to ask. I know I won’t find lobster bodies at our local market here in the mountains. Do any of you, especially those that live in the Northeast or near the ocean, know if fish markets sell or give away lobster bodies?

Our Ingles market here may not have Maine lobsters, but they make up for it by stocking French baguettes from Nancy Silverton’s Le Brea Bakery in California. Chef and baker Nancy Silverton is credited for sparking the artisan bread renaissance. Talk about a fabulous crusty baguette – ooh, la, la. You would have to travel to France to find a better baguette than the ones from La Brea.

Seafood bisque is traditionally served in a low two-handled cup on a saucer or in a mug. It is very rich and a little bit goes a long way and a crusty French baguette served alongside is a must.



Lobster Bisque
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything - serves 4
Printable Recipe

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
4 to 8 lobster bodies, cooked or uncooked, with as many other lobster shells as you can scavenge, plus coral, tomalley, and any stray bits of meat you might find*
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup cored, seeded, and chopped tomatoes (canned are fine; and don't bother to drain)
6 cups full flavored chicken stock or store bought fish stock or strained liquid reserved from boiling lobsters
1 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Minced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves for garnish

Place 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large-deep saucepan or casserole over medium heat. When it melts, add the onion, garlic, carrot, bay leaf, and thyme and cook, stirring, until the onion softens, 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the lobster bodies and, if they are uncooked, cook, stirring, until they turn red, about 10 minutes (if they're already cooked, cook, stirring, about 5 minutes.

Add the wine and tomatoes and turn the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the stock, turn the heat to high, and bring back to a boil. Once again, turn the heat to low and cover; cook for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Remove the lobster shells, crack them if necessary, and pick off any meat you find. Return the bits of meat to the soup (reserve any large pieces of meat you have for the final addition below).

Pass the soup through a food mill or puree it in a blender or food processor. (You may prepare the soup in advance up to this point. Cover, refrigerate for up to 2 days, and reheat before proceeding.)Return the soup to the pot and bring to a boil. Add the remaining butter, in bits, until it melts. Add the cream and any bits of lobster meat and heat through. Season with salt and pepper, garnish with chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, and serve.



For better viewing, click on photos to enlarge.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes.    
Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Frozen Fruit Salad, a classic dessert – updated and all dressed up


It's been very warm here the last several weeks so I'm taking advantage of the last days of summer with a frozen fruit salad. Summer is my favorite season and I never seem to want to let it go.

Frozen fruit salad is a classic frozen dessert, quite refreshing for a hot day, and a favorite of busy moms as an alternative to ice cream without the churning. As a child, during the summer there was always a tray of frozen fruit salad in my mother’s freezer. Old- fashion frozen fruit salads from the fifties were a mixture of cream cheese, whipped heavy cream or Cool Whip, mayonnaise, and miniature marshmallows combined with drained fruit cocktail, chopped canned pineapple, grapes, and sometimes maraschino cherries, frozen in metal ice trays and sliced while still frozen. It was either served as simple dessert to cool the palate, or for fancy occasions and ladies luncheons, as a salad on a big curly leaf of lettuce.

Enter the Lee brothers, Matt and Ted, two classy southern gentlemen from Charleston, South Carolina, known for their culinary Low Country lore and numerous cookbooks for southerners and would-be southerners. The brothers updated this frozen treat and turned it into a very glamorous dessert that they’ve named Strawberry Delight. The Lee’s version of frozen fruit salad is a cream and buttermilk mixture, swirled with fresh strawberry sauce, tiny marshmallows with an added crunch of crispy vanilla wafers and toasted pecans. Frozen fruit salad is very easy to make, but it does require a bit of stirring on your part to keep the ingredients evenly distributed and for the dish to set up properly. It’s as easy as opening the freezer, stirring, and returning the loaf pan back to the freezer a couple of times until it’s ready to serve. The recipe makes a lot, so we divided in half and used one small loaf.



The only things I might add is that it’s nice to chill the serving platter and plates in the freezer, but never chill the forks. Instead, place the forks in the refrigerator for a few minutes before serving. Look to your garden for flowers and greenery and choose whatever is fresh. If you want to make the dish your own, simply use the recipe as an outline for other fruit choices. I always enjoy sliced grapes in frozen fruit salad.

The Lee brothers suggest you serve this elegant but simple dessert by “turning the entire frozen loaf upside down onto a platter, surround with flowers and greenery, and slice off individual portions with a knife – a silver one of course, the blade warmed first in hot water. After all, in Charleston, it’s all about the ceremony.” 



Strawberry Delight
From Chefs Matt & Ted Lee & Garden & Gun magazine, - serves 8

1 lb. fresh strawberries, trimmed and halved
⅔ cup sugar, divided
1  pint heavy cream
2  pinches kosher salt
1  cup half-and-half
1  cup buttermilk, preferably whole
24  vanilla wafer cookies (about 3 oz.), crumbled to oyster-cracker-size pieces
1  cup chopped pecans, toasted
3  oz. mini-marshmallows (about 2 cups)

Here’s a link to the full recipe itself with pictures and instructions and another link to a printable copy. The recipe takes 1 hour, plus 4 to 6 hours to set. For the Lee brother’s charming story behind their development of the recipe and their quest to wrangle the recipe from a plantation owner and her cook, follow this link to the article in Garden and Gun magazine.

For better viewing, click on photos to enlarge.



This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes.  

Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Surprise Party for my Birthday - a New England Clam & Lobster Boil


My husband Meakin threw a surprise party for me for my birthday over the weekend and I never had a clue! He managed to assemble our entire family from Texas, Florida, Tennessee, & North Carolina to celebrate one those “milestone” birthdays for me. He had live lobsters and clams flown in from Maine and everyone hid at my brother & sister-in-law’s house here in the mountains of North Carolina in the same small town where we live and where the New England Clam and Lobster Boil party was held, all in a cloud of secrecy.

Meakin and I are practically joined at the hip and how he pulled this off without my even having a clue is still a big mystery to me, but he did it, along with the help of our family, and it was a huge success.

Big caldrons were brought from Florida to cook the lobsters and clams, corn was shucked and cleaned, beer and wine was chilled, the table was set, and the feast was devoured in no time, followed of course by a birthday cake and much visiting.

I want to say that my brother-in-law Stuart and his wife Sandy deserve big accolades as the actual burden of the details in planning and implementation of the party fell on their shoulders. You guys are the best and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Here they are along with Meakin's youngest brother, who kindly brought his big pots from Florida for the lobsters and clams, sharing a beer while cooking.



I thought you might enjoy some of the pictures.








Meakin having fun with the lobster.








My sister-in-law had never met my sister. Here they are with me getting to know each other.




Our host with his lobster.




Meakin's handsome son and his pretty wife. They got up early and drove all morning to get here on time.



And of course the finale, a birthday cake.




Here we all are together as a group for the first time in years.




I am truly blessed. Meakin asked me to marry him on my birthday forty-five years ago. Time flies when you're having fun.

Have a great weekend everyone.