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Top Pick Of The Week

May 8, 2007

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scampi butter
Epicurean Butter will enhance your repertoire and help you create fine food effortlessly. Above, Scampi Butter makes an almost instant scampi.
WHAT IT IS: Savory and sweet compound butters in more than a dozen flavors.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: In both traditional and contemporary flavors, these butters add sass and sparkle to main dishes, sides, appetizers and breakfast foods.
WHY WE LOVE IT: It’s easy to turn out a great dinner just by broiling and adding some Epicurean Butter. Scrambled eggs and pancakes taste like never before. Potatoes, other vegetables and even oatmeal take on new dimensions. All from a little pat of butter.
WHERE TO BUY IT: DeanDeluca.com. See more options below.
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Epicurean Butter:
Compound Delight

Want to become a more impressive cook instantly? Use compound butter! Also known as finishing butter, or beurre composé in French, it’s unsalted butter that has been blended with seasonings. There are endless variations: Escoffier published 35 combinations in 1903, and cuisine has evolved in many directions since his classic renderings of anchovy butter and beurre à la maître d’hotel (lemon parsley butter).

In Continental cuisine, compound butter is added to the pan to finish a sauce, placed directly atop meat, fish or vegetables to create a flavorful garnish, or mixed into pasta and rice. For busy people who don’t have the time (or inspired recipes) to make their own, the numerous flavors of Epicurean Butter make cooking a picnic. Just a dab transforms a dish: If you think butter makes everything taste better, think of what butter infused with great seasonings will do.

Epicurean Butter, a Denver company, caters to both classic and contemporary cuisine, with gourmet butters in savory and sweet flavors. The home cook is now empowered to finish and present meals like a fine chef, just by taking the lid off the tub of butter. People who think they have modest cooking talents should not be surprised to hear applause at the table.

  • Click here to read the full review below. (If your e-mail client does not support anchor links, scroll down.)
  • Read reviews of more of our favorite butters in THE NIBBLE™ online magazine.
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THE NIBBLE™ does not sell the foods we review
or receive fees from manufacturers for recommending them.

Our recommendations are based purely on our opinion, after tasting thousands of products each year, that they represent the best in their respective categories.

 

More Ways To Flavor Your Food

Flavored Butters Michael Chiarello's Flavored Oils and Vinegars The 50 Best Flavored Oils and Vinegars
Flavored Butters: Nuts, Dairy, Herbs, Fruit, by Offerico Maoz. More than 65 mouth-watering recipes for flavored butters and sauces, including Avocado Butter, Parmesan-Bacon Butter, Chipotle Pepper Butter Sauce, and Cinnamon-Honey Butter. Click here for more information or to purchase. Michael Chiarello’s Flavored Oils and Vinegars: 100 Recipes for Cooking with Infused Oils and Vinegars, by Michael Chiarello. Creative recipes for both making and using flavored oils and vinegars that capture the essence of herbs, fruits, vegetables and spices. Click here for more information. The Best 50 Flavored Oils and Vinegars, by David Diresta and Joanne Foran. Not a book on products to buy, but on products to make. Fifty recipes for infused oils and vinegars to make for oneself or for gifts, from vanilla oil to fruit vinegar. Click here for more information.

Epicurean Butter: Compound Delight

INDEX OF REVIEW

MORE TO DISCOVER

Compound butter, or finishing butter, is indeed a compound delight: It makes everything it touches taste better, and it makes cooking a snap. Herb butter (most often served atop steak), Roquefort butter (ditto) and anchovy butter (a classic with grilled seafood) are staples at fine steakhouses. Read a French restaurant menu and maître d’hôtel butter (lemon parsley) is certain to be garnishing some dish. And that delicious sauce of butter, lemon juice, parsley and garlic served with escargots? Compound butter.

Compound butters are an easy, prepared-in-advance alternative to sauces. They can be modestly to highly flavorful to enhance the main ingredient. They are meant to be decorative: not simply melted butter, but punctuated with seasonings and/or color. And with the disappearance of classic French cuisine in favor of la cuisine moderne and la cuisine nouvelle, these days they’re found less and less often on restaurant menus.

The great French chef Auguste Escoffier listed more than 35 different combinations for compound butter in Le Guide Culinaire, first published in 1903 (and still in print—click on the link for the English translation). But with today’s fusion cuisine and a generation of chefs who challenge themselves to think outside the classical box, the combinations are endless.

Truffle Butter
Black Truffle Butter is just one of a myriad of
compound butter flavors. It can make anything
good
taste better, and anything great taste sublime. All butter tub photos by B. A. Van Sise.

If you’ve eaten in traditional French restaurants*, you’ve no doubt had (or at least seen on the menu) dishes naming a fish or meat prepared in a butter on Escoffier’s list: anchovy butter (beurre d’anchois), garlic butter (beurre d’ail), lemon butter (beurre de citron), lemon parsley butter (beurre à la maître d’hotel), mushroom butter (beurre aux cèpes sècs), mustard butter (beurre de moutard), tarragon butter (beurre à l’estragon) and red wine and shallot butter (beurre marchand de vin, a.k.a. wine merchant butter). Today, anything goes: You may find sundried tomato and niçoise olive butter and pistachio tangerine butter as easily as lemongrass sesame butter.

*Alas, with nouvelle cuisine and other culinary movements, the classics have fallen out of favor both here and in France. Beurre composé was very common in France and in French restaurants around the world until the late twentieth century; today, it is found less and less.

Compound butters are most often used to finish sauces; they are placed atop grilled meat and fish and on vegetables, to melt in lieu of a separate sauce; they also are used to make canapés. But they can do so much more, as you’ll see below. Chefs generally make the compound butter in advance, roll it into a log shape and refrigerate it until needed. A slice is then cut from the log and placed directly onto the hot food, where it melts immediately, creating a sauce.  But sauce isn’t the only endgame: While one of our favorite compound butters is the horseradish-roquefort butter we make for steak, our roast chicken tastes sublime thanks to the pats of rosemary butter that we tuck under the skin.

While making compound butter isn’t difficult, it can take planning (see our recipe below) and the will to mince and macerate to a painstaking degree. Thus, Epicurean Butters, the brainchild of John Hubschman, a professional chef, are a most welcome addition to the refrigerator. This is a line of delicious recipes from a fine chef, prepared from Grade AA butter, in enough flavor varieties to make cooking exciting for a long time. Not only will the home chef be thrilled to create restaurant-quality meals on such a turnkey basis, but the fun of thinking of how to use the butters—the “think outside the box” element—can be shared by the entire family.


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Epicurean Butter Flavors

It isn’t surprising that a pat of flavored butter can transform just about anything into a memorable dining experience with ease and speed. Even nicer is that when anything cooked via other means tastes dull, just toss some on (we used Chili Lime to save a boring vegetable pizza).

Savory Butters

Filet Mignon with Garlic Butter
Roasted Garlic Herb Butter is the classic to top a great piece of steak—and it doesn’t hurt the potatoes and spinach, either. Photo © Kelly Cline.
  • Basil Walnut Pesto. A truly delicious pesto. Toss with pasta, vegetables or rice. Make a special grilled chicken salad on mixed greens. Create easy bruschetta: Spread pesto butter on a sliced baguette, top with sliced mozzarella and broil.
  • Black Truffle Butter. One of our favorite foods—more expensive and worth every cent. Scramble eggs in it, toss with pasta, add to risotto or rice just before serving. Add a pat to grilled steak or seafood. We just love it on slices of fresh or toasted baguette. If you’re feeling rich, serve it with fresh corn on the cob and mash potatoes with it.
  • Chardonnay Shallot. One of the more subtle butters, but a classic for the many recipes that call for wine and shallots. Add it to the pan during the last minute of sautéing white fish and shellfish. Ravioli or tortellini gently tossed in this butter offers a sophisticated side dish, or simply enjoy it on warm, crusty bread.
  • Chili Lime.* This butter has terrific Southwestern flavor, redolent of fresh lime tang and a smoky chili kick. Use it to liven up anything: seafood, fish tacos, grilled chicken or pork, vegetables or rice. Mixing with angel hair or other thin pasta creates the Tex-Mex version of Chinese sesame noodles.

*“Chili” is variously spelled chile, chilli and chili. Learn why in our Chile Glossary—and why the chile is erroneously called a chile pepper.

  • Porcini Sage. The earthy ‘shroom flavor pairs well with pasta dishes, broiled chicken, even chicken gravy. Or, use it as a finishing butter for steak: earth ‘n’ turf.
  • Roasted Garlic Herb. This delicious classic finishing butter—often served by top steak restaurants with a grilled steak—can be used to sauté mushrooms, make garlic bread and garlic mashed potatoes. Chef Hubschman likes to spread it on pizza dough and add toppings, or toss with pasta and add steamed vegetables and cooked shrimp for an impressive meal in no time.
  • Scampi Butter. Along with Roasted Garlic Herb, this garlic butter with a touch of lemon juice and fresh herbs is extremely versatile. Toss it on vegetables or use it as a finishing butter for chicken or seafood; or melt it as a dipping butter for crab legs, lobster, steamed mussels or artichokes. Make the ever-popular “Shrimp Scampi”† in minutes by heating olive oil in a sauté pan and adding cleaned, raw shrimp; cook until just pink. Reduce the heat and slowly stir in Scampi Butter so it doesn’t separate. Serve over pasta.
Corn on the Cob
Buttered corn is delicious, but Tomato Chipotle butter is even more exciting.

†We have no idea how this dish got its name. Scampi means “shrimp” in Italian, not “garlic butter,” so you’re ordering “Shrimp Shrimp.” We imagine it’s one big Italian restaurant joke on people who don’t speak Italian. Don’t be one of them: Ask for the Scampi, and if the waiter needs further elucidation, specify “garlic butter.” Better yet, buy the Scampi Butter and make it yourself at home.

Tuscan Herb Butter
Tuscan Herb Butter: Five herbs minced to perfection.
  • Tomato Chipotle. Our batch didn’t have much of a hot chile kick, but it did have a lovely roasted tomato and balsamic flavor. Chef Hubschman likes to brush it on grilled skewers of meat, chicken or vegetables as he removes them from the grill. Try it instead of regular butter when making grilled cheese sandwiches, fry eggs or cook hash browns in it. We liked it with grilled chicken. Evidently, the industry loves it: It’s a finalist in the Outstanding Sauce or Flavor Enhancer category, to be announced at this summer’s Fancy Food Show.
  • Tuscan Herb. This classic Italian blend of fresh herbs and garlic can be used on practically everything. We could never have minced the basil, garlic, parsley, rosemary and thyme as finely as this! Top grilled fish, toss with pasta or vegetables, make a more sophisticated “parsley potatoes” or add to a baked potato.

Coming soon: Balsamic Peppercorn and Marsala Wine butters.

Sweet Butters

Don’t worry—the “sweet” butters are not particularly sweet. In fact, we’d be happy if the honey butters had even more honey in them! But, every last drop disappeared, not only on breakfast food but on vegetables and biscuits at the dinner table as well.

All three butters work at breakfast on pancakes, waffles, and French toast; on hot cereal, like cream of wheat and oatmeal; on bagels, English muffins, toast muffins and scones. You can scramble eggs or make omelets with them, too. Plus:

  • Honey Pecan. At dinner, for sweet potatoes, butternut squash, hot biscuits and crusty bread.
  • Orange Honey. Use as a glaze for grilled salmon or cooked carrots; enjoy on cornbread and biscuits.
  • Sweet Cinnamon. If you like cinnamon, you will fall in love with this butter. It makes the perfect cinnamon toast and rocks a bagel or English muffin. Chef Hubschman suggests substituting it for regular butter when baking apple pie, graham cracker cheese cake crust and oatmeal cookies. We would have tried this, but we couldn’t spare enough from our toast, bagels and oatmeal.
Pancakes
Pancakes with Honey Pecan Butter.

We haven’t had the two new flavors, Cranberry Walnut and Pumpkin Spice, but we look forward to enjoying them long before the holiday season.

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What’s The Difference Between Bercy Butter and Beurre Manie? Is Beurre Blanc A Compound Butter?
Read about the dozens of different types of butter in our
Butter Glossary.

 

Making Your Own

It’s easy to find recipes for compound butter' or experiment on your own using a stick of unsalted butter, flavorings to taste (start with a tablespoon of everything), and salt to taste. When you have your recipe down pat, pay a bit more for European-style butters (Plugra, for example), which have a higher fat content and make a rich compound butter. Making it from scratch isn’t hard if you have good recipes, but requires advance planning.

  • Let the butter come to room temperature and chop all ingredients as finely as humanly possible before combining with the other ingredients (an exception would be cranberries, raisins, dried cherries, pistachios or pecans, where you want the whole nut or fruit to appear in the sauce).
  • Mince or macerate with a mortar and pestle.
  • Cream the butter with a spatula and combine with the seasonings.
  • Allow the butter to stand for two hours at room temperature so the flavors can blend.
  • Refrigerate until it’s firm enough to roll in a sausage shape, and cover tightly with plastic wrap (also, seal in a plastic zip top bag or an airtight container to further keep out refrigerator odors).

Some tips:

  • Herbs or raw vegetables like mushrooms, or other uncooked ingredients, can grow bacteria in the refrigerator or freezer. If you plan to keep the butter for a few weeks, blanch them for two minutes in boiling water before processing.
Cinnamon Butter
Cinnamon Butter: for breakfast or dinner rolls!
  • A strong acid like citrus juice will retard bacterial development.
  • Don’t keep the butter for more than one month—even in the freezer.

[All that, to make only one flavor of compound butter? Thank goodness Chef Hubschman decided to go into the business!]

Compound butter is meant to be used cold; if it begins to soften while the pieces are being cut, return it to the refrigerator for a few minutes to harden. The idea is for the pat of butter to retain some of its shape atop the beef, asparagus, pancake or other victual—not to simply pour melted butter over food. The cold pat melting on the hot makes for good theatre at the table.

So what will it be? Grilled salmon with Chili Lime? Lemon Garlic? Roasted Garlic Herb? Tomato Chipotle? Black Truffle? Whichever you choose, you can have a side of angel hair pasta tossed with a second flavor, and butter a biscuit with a third. If you’re going to enjoy butter, enjoy it to the compound max.

—Karen Hochman

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to anyone who loves to cook, or wants to be a better cook—the easy way.

EPICUREAN BUTTER

SAVORY FLAVORS: Basil Walnut Pesto, Black Truffle Butter, Chardonnay Shallot, Chili Lime, Lemon Garlic, Porcini Sage, Roasted Garlic Herb, Scampi Butter, Tomato Chipotle and Tuscan Herb
SWEET FLAVORS: Cranberry Walnut, Honey Pecan, Orange Honey, Pumpkin Spice and Sweet Cinnamon
COMING SOON: Balsamic Peppercorn, Marsala Wine

  • 3.5-Ounce Tub
    $3.99 Suggested Retail Price
    (Black Truffle Butter is higher)

Purchase online at DeanDeLuca.com
(Look for item #702055, four butters including Chili Lime, Porcini Sage, Roasted Garlic and Tomato Chipotle)

Epicurean Butter can be purchased at independent specialty retailers and chains including Safeway Lifestyle, Super Target, QFC, Whole Foods (several regions), Wild Oats and Vitamin Cottage and Harris Teeter; or email epicureanbutter@msn.com for a retailer near you.

Epicurean Butter
Epicurean Butters: Try them all!

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Prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. Shipping additional.


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