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By MJ Adams, Host of Savor Dakota
Herb butters are a great way to preserve the flavors of summer in your fall and winter cooking, along with adding a special touch to your meals.
Fresh herbs have always been a part of my kitchen. While living in NYC, I utilized my fire escape with pots of rosemary and sage. It’s so easy to plant a few herbs in a container, set them out on your patio/deck and watch them grow. Throughout the summer I enjoy popping outside, scissors in hand, snipping a stem of whatever herbs I have planted for the year. Back inside, I apply the finishing touch to the dish I just cooked or to the beginning of something I will be later roasting in my oven.
As fall approaches, my more fragile herbs such as chervil and basil begin to fade away, I start stocking up on butter to preserve these flavors through the winter months. Herb butter is a great accompaniment to many things. Chive butter on a baked potato. Tarragon butter for roasted grapes and a sautéed chicken breast dish. A simple meal of plain fettuccine finished with basil butter, a touch of grated cheese and a whisper of good olive oil. I have even made Nasturtium butter for roasted salmon.
My rule of thumb is herbs such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram, sage; these are heartier herbs that need to be cooked in the oven to bring out the flavors. These butters I use by putting a few slices under the skin of a chicken before roasting. I may add a pad to an already roasted pork chop or loin in the last five minutes of cooking. Or, I may add herbed butter after I plate the desired roasted meat dish before bringing to the table.
Herbs that I feel don’t need roasting are cilantro, chervil, chives, tarragon, mint and nasturtium flowers. I add these herb butters into my dish the last few minutes of cooking. I find these herbs make great great butter spreads for your rolls or baguette with dinner and a finish to any warm vegetable side dishes. The choices are unlimited. I usually make 5-7 varieties of herb butter that I roll into parchment paper, date and freeze. These freeze well up to 6 months.
Kitchen Notes on Herb Butter:
I start with a good butter that is unsalted. You also want the butter to be at room temperature, not too soft but pliable enough to fold the herbs into. If the butter is too soft, I just put back in the fridge for about 7 minutes.The two I made today are a chive butter and the other a mixture of rosemary, thyme and sage.
Be sure and pull the herbs from their stems before chopping. I tend to chiffonade basil. Parsley, cilantro, chervil or tarragon I tend to rough chop by hand, with extra care paid to chervil. I like to cut chives with scissors. Lavender I crumble lightly with my hands.
Herb butters for finishing dishes - 4 oz. of butter to 1/2 cup of chopped herbs, 1/2 tsp salt.
Herb butters that require cooking - 4 oz. of butter to 1/3 cup of chopped herbs, 1/2 tsp salt
Mix the butter completely with the herbs using a rubber spatula. Next, place the butter-herb mixture onto the front part of the square of parchment paper around 8x8. From here I form and work the butter into a log by shaping it with the parchment paper placed over the top of it and smoothing it out to a log, tightening it as I roll up. (Similar to when you make cookie dough into a log). Again, if it is getting too soft, I put in the fridge for 5-7 minutes to harden and make it easier to work with. If you do not have parchment paper, saran wrap is fine. With both of these I twist the ends and give a twirl on each end in a different direction to tighten up the log and form a flat surface on each end. Label with the date and herb and place the rolls in a freezer bag.
Take out the night before you want to use and place in the fridge.