Flavored or compound butters are easy to make and give you a simple and incredibly tasty way to complement and customise your steaks.
Flavored butters are better known in culinary terms as compound butters. It’s a fancy name for something that is so very easy to produce, but you really can’t underestimate their power. There are classic combinations like a simple parsley butter that you may have seen in most steakhouses in the 80s, and even a garlic-laced butter than is spread on baguette to make garlic bread. Classics are fine and all, but I think it’s way more exciting to come up with more creative combinations.
One of my pet hates with briskets and steaks are people who try to overpower or mask the flavor with injections or heavy rubs. A beautiful piece of beef is a glorious thing indeed, and the natural flavor of a premium piece of meat should be celebrated, not overwhelmed.
Particularly when you’re working with beautiful quality steak, the idea is to showcase the natural glory of the beef, but still add an interesting element of flavor. Compound butters provided the perfect answer! Much like a bernaise, horseradish or mustard sauce, you can add as much or little of the butter as you like, and the flavor serves to enhance the beef. I think we can also all agree, that adding butter to anything is always a great idea.
And while all these butter flavors to work great with steak, you may find yourself adding the butters to popcorn, bread, baked potatoes, fish and just about anything else that could use some salty melty goodness. The most important thing you need to know: use salted butter, add a little extra salt, too, and use the best quality butter you can get; it does taste noticeably better.
Here are the flavors I came up with that are specifically designed to match with steak. To make compound butters, simply place a stick of butter in a bowl and to come to room temp until it’s extremely soft, then add in your extra ingredients (detailed below) and roll up tight in some cling film, twisting the ends to re-form into a tube shape, and place back in the fridge to re-solidify. These will last you at least a week or two in the fridge, unless you eat them all first…
Smoked Garlic & Thyme Butter
While I usually like to remain impartial, I must admit this flavor may have been my favorite. Chop the top of a whole head of garlic, leaving the skin on, and wrap it in a boat of foil, leaving the top exposed. Place into a smoker for 45-60 minutes until garlic is soft, then squeeze the cloves out of the skins straight into the butter. Add in 2 chopped tablespoons of Thyme and mix to combine. If you don’t have a smoker, you can fine mince and brown the garlic in a small skillet with some olive oil for a similar result.
Black Pepper and Mushroom Butter
This cimbo is a take on some of the more classic flavors found in traditional steakhouse sauces. It uses dried shitake mushrooms, which have a particularly ‘umami’ flavor, and stay nice and soft when rehydrated. Place 8-10 dried shitakes in a bowl of hot water to reconstitute and soften, about 10-15 minutes. Drain from water, chop finely and add to butter, along with 1 tablespoon of black pepper. You can use a combo of fine and coarse pepper for a great texture difference.
Spicy Mustard Butter
For those who like it hot… The parsley helps freshen and brighten this butter, which has a real kick. Add two teaspoon of dijon, Creole or seeded mustard to the butter, and a 1/4 tsp of Cayenne pepper, plus 2 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley. If you’re worried about the heat, just add a little Cayenne at a time and taste as you go.
Bloody Mary Butter
It may sound weird, but I thought of this flavor when I started by thinking of alternatives to horseradish cream, which is a classic condiment for steak. Just add in 2-4 chopped sundried tomatoes, 2 teaspoons of horseradish and a good sprinkle of celery salt and mix well with the butter.
Charred Scallion Butter
I adore this butter, too. Something about the ones with charred flavors and anything from the allium family just works so well. It’s also the only butter that has a single ingredient addition to create the finished product. In a heavy based pan or cast iron skillet, with a small amount of spray oil, cook the scallions (minus the white roots) over low-medium heat until they have completely softened, and begun to take on some serious color. You’ll even begin to see the very tips char and turn black – don’t worry, this is supposed to happen! Once they’ve cooled, chop them finely and add to softened butter.
Ancho and Lime Butter
Bright and fresh with a definite Southwest flavor, add 1 teaspoon of earthy Ancho chile and the zest of a bright green medium lime to softened butter. If you prefer, you can substitute the Ancho with Chipotle powder for a smokier finish. The magical part about this butter is that it is equally amazing on corn – double duty!