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5 Ways to Flavor Your Butter with Fresh Herbs

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Today: Make compound butter your back pocket powerhouse for pasta, grilled cheese, and winning hostess gifts. 

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Oh, butter: We love you so. Whether smeared on toast, loaded into croissants, or sitting atop our steaks, butter never lets us down. Then we asked ourselves, is it possible to make butter even more delicious? The answer, we found, is yes, through the brilliance that is compound butter. 

Compound butter is deceptively simple to make, even though it looks and tastes like a day's worth of work. All you need is a bowl, a whisk, a stick of butter, and a clever flavor combination of herbs and spices. Start by letting the butter come to room temperature—you’ll want it nice and soft so it is easy to whip—then add chopped herbs (stems removed), a sprinkle of spice, a dash of sugar, and whatever else your butter-tooth has you craving. And just in case we haven’t already convinced you of the magical properties of compound butter, hold onto your seat: Compound butter makes an amazing gift, wrapped up in waxed paper with a twine bow. To gift or store the butter, dollop the flavored butter down the middle of a sheet of parchment paper. Using a straightedge, form the butter into a cylinder and roll the paper over it so that it keeps its shape. You can store it in the freezer for up to 6 months, slicing off coins of butter as needed.

More: We could write all about butter all day. In fact, we did.

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In honor of spring and all the budding vegetable and herb gardens out there, here are five compound butter combinations to brighten up your meals and give you another excuse to add butter to just about everything:

1. Cilantro and Lime

When you find yourself with a bunch of cilantro in the fridge leftover from your weekend taco binge, a batch of compound butter is the only acceptable answer. Add a squeeze of lime or a spoonful of zest along with the cilantro to make a butter that is just asking to be slathered on savory waffles

2. Mint and Lemon Zest

When your mint plant blossoms and your drink pitcher is already full of mint juleps, might we suggest a mint and lemon zest butter? Just add mint to taste (a good handful should do it) and zest from a whole lemon (if you don't have a whole lemon, less is a-OK) to a stick of butter. This butter tastes good on breakfast toast and is an amazing addition to your lemon pound cake glaze—simply take 2 tablespoons of the mint and lemon butter and beat it with 2 cups of confecioner's sugar and 1/4 cup of lemon juice until smooth.

3. Thyme and Honey 

Take a stick of butter to the sweet and herbaceous side with the addition of honey and thyme—just a few sprigs (without the stems) and a spoonful of honey will do the trick. Once mixed, slather it inside of cinnamon rolls before baking for a sweet and herbaceous breakfast. Whip it into frosting for a game-changing cake topping. 

4. Chives and Black Pepper

If you are a lover of steak and butter, this compound creation is for you. Chop up your chives and add freshly cracked black pepper to create a butter that was made for filet mignon or flank steak.

5. Parsley and Shallot

Carb lovers rejoice, this compound butter is perfect for pasta (simply boil water, add sardines, and mix in parsley and shallot butter) or grilled fish (top it with a pat of parsley-shallot butter). But best of all, you'll never let a bunch of parsley lay waste in the back of your fridge again.

What are some of your favorite compound butter combinations? Tell us in the comments below!

Photo of steak by thirschfeld; all others by James Ransom

Tags: butter, compound butter, herbs, cooking with herbs, food gifts