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Kick up dishes a notch with flavored butters

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Flavored butters are the perfect answer for taking common dishes and kicking them up a notch.

Tired of eating sauteed summer squash with onions? Consider adding rosemary-roasted garlic butter to the mix, or a touch of heat with homemade red chile butter prepared with three varieties of chile peppers, ground cumin, kosher salt, garlic and butter.

The same can be used on steamed broccoli, roasted Brussels sprouts, potatoes, cabbage, corn on the cob and other fare.

As the old saying goes, everything tastes better with butter.

Lucy Vaserfirer's "Flavored Butters" cookbook offers a large selection of compound butters to add to your arsenal.

For savory dishes, the gorgonzola-chive-butter recipe will add zip to a grilled burger or steak, as will the caramelized onion butter, the horseradish butter or the anchovy butter.

For baked goods and breakfast items, the cookbook features sweet flavors such as whipped-vanilla-bean butter, orange-honey butter and pie-spice butter featuring ginger, cloves, nutmeg and vanilla extract.

The only items needed for this project are a bowl, spoon, food processor, electric mixer, Microplane (or fine grater), parchment paper, lots of butter and your imagination.

Here's a selection of recipes from Vaserfirer's book.


1 ancho chile, stemmed (see note)

1 pasilla chile, stemmed (see note)

1 guajillo chile, stemmed (see note)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 garlic clove, grated on a Microplane

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

Heat a medium-size, heavy saute pan or griddle over medium heat until very hot. Add the chiles and toast, pressing down on them firmly with a spatula for 10-15 seconds, or until golden brown.

Turn the chiles and continue to toast, pressing down on them firmly with the spatula, another 10-15 seconds or until fragrant, golden brown and pliable.

Remove the toasted chiles to a bowl, add enough boiling water to cover and let soak 10-12 minutes or until rehydrated. Transfer the chiles and 2 tablespoons of the soaking liquid to a blender and blend until smooth. Force the chiles through a fine mesh sieve to remove the skins and seeds.

Blend together the chile puree, butter, garlic, salt and cumin in a medium-size bowl. Form into a log (see directions below) and refrigerate until firm before slicing and serving.

Note: Chiles can be found at Hispanic or specialty grocery stores.

Yield: 8 servings.


8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

2 teaspoons curry powder

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 garlic clove, grated on a Microplane

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

Blend together the butter, cilantro, curry powder, lime juice, ginger, garlic and salt in a medium-size bowl.

Form into a log (see directions below) and refrigerate until firm before slicing and serving.

Yield: 8 servings.


1/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons water

1/4 cup heavy cream

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or other finishing sea salt, or to taste

1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the sugar and water in a small, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, brush down the sides of the pan with water, and boil until caramelized, 5-6 minutes. The sugar will be fragrant and have a deep amber color when it is caramelized.

Remove the pan from the heat, slowly stir in the cream until smooth and let cool to room temperature.

Blend together the caramel, butter, salt and vanilla in a medium-size bowl.

To use as a butter, form into a log (see directions below) and refrigerate until firm before slicing and serving. To use as a buttercream frosting, let soften if needed and spread onto cooled baked goods, swirling decoratively.

Yield: 8 servings.

Note: To make caramel-pecan butter, blend 1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans into the butter. This variation is not suitable for piping, molding, cookie-cutter shapes or curling.

Shaping and storing compound butters

Transfer the flavored butter to a sheet of parchment paper, roll tightly into a 1-1/2-inch-thick log (a straight edge is helpful for forming an even log) and twist both ends of the parchment paper to seal. Slip the log into a paper-towel tube if you want it to be perfectly round, and refrigerate until firm. To serve, cut slices of flavored butter with a warm knife (simply run hot water over the blade and then wipe it dry).

Tightly wrapped compound butters will keep for several days in the refrigerator and weeks in the freezer. For ease of use, it's recommended to slice the butter and freeze individually in rounds.

Contact Mary Constantine of the Knoxville News Sentinel in Tennessee at


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