Compound butter is a simple way to add flavor and elegance to a fish dish quickly.The name, compound butter, refers to butter mixed with different herbs, spices, and aromatics and that can be used to finish off fish, meat, or vegetables with minimal effort and major impact.
They can also be made ahead and stored in the fridge or freezer. Just slide off a pat when you need it and call your dish done!
How to Make Any Compound Butter
The better quality the butter, the better the overall results. Chef Ashley Fahr from Cookdrop Kitchen recommends using European-style butter that has a higher fat content such as Plugra or Kerrygold. Combine unsalted, room temperature butter with your choice of aromatics, spices, or fresh herbs. Then, add salt, pepper, and preferably some type of acid such as lemon juice to balance out the flavors. Mix the flavors well by hand or throw everything into a food processor to thoroughly combine. Roll the butter mixture tightly in parchment paper to form a log and tightly sealing the ends before storing in the fridge to firm for at least an hour or up to one week. Compound butter can also be stored in the freezer for up to one month.
Serious Eats provides a step-by-step guide to rolling here.
Get The Proportions Right
While there are no set proportions to use for compound butter, the ideal tends to be about one stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons), ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper, and 2 tablespoons fresh herbs. From there, add the other ingredients such as lemon juice or paste mixes to taste.
Have Fun with Flavor
A classic French compound butter, the Maitre d’Hotel combines fresh parsley, lemon juice, salt, and pepper for a simple but finish to whatever you’re cooking. The bright flavor of this green-speckled butter is delicious on any type of fish or vegetables such as asparagus or mushrooms. Experiment with using different fresh herbs, such as chives, thyme, or rosemary with this recipe from Martha Stewart as your guide.
Harissa Compound Butter
Mixing harissa, a spice-filled North African paste, with butter is a great way to add bold flavors to mild white fish. It can also be served with vegetables or cooked with eggs for a fiery start to the morning. Start with this harissa compound butter recipe from Bon Appetit.
Not intended for your toast (though you certainly could enjoy it that way), avocado butter adds a rich, smooth flavor to fish, vegetables, or meat. Use Alton Brown’s favorite avocado butter recipe (and learn a fun fact about the word avocado).
Smoked Paprika and Rosemary Butter
While typically used on corn, we love the earthy and smoky flavors of this compound butter to elevate the taste more mild taste of white fish. Get started with this just-four-ingredient recipe from The Pioneer Woman.
The combination of miso and butter is a match made in heaven. The richness of butter makes it the perfect carrier for the umami flavor from the miso. Use it on white fish, eggplant for a Japanese-style dish, or toss it with pasta or buckwheat noodles and vegetables for an instant sauce. The beauty of miso is that it provides most of the flavor, which minimizes the need for other seasonings. Martha Stewart offers an easy version of this two-ingredient recipe.
Slice & Serve
To serve compound butter with fish, bring the log to room temperature and slice off thin coins. The width of the slices will depend on the diameter of the compound butter log: You want approximately 1 tablespoon per slice or serving, so slice accordingly. Top each fish fillet (or hot vegetables) with the coin of butter and serve immediately.
The heat of the fish will melt the butter, creating an instant sauce of sorts and plenty of flavor.
For more fish cooking inspiration, visit the Australis Kitchen.