Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Current Obsession: Butter (can you blame me?)

I have become recently obsessed with making herb infused butters. I adore cooking with fresh herbs. It was probably one of my favorite things about cooking professionally (well that and my heart has been changed forever after experiencing a well-stocked walk-in fridge). If I ever find myself feeling uninspired to cook - I just pick up a couple of fresh herbs and settle happily into a tirade of ideas for what to make out of the remainders in my kitchen.

It started out innocently enough, I had fresh rosemary, Italian parsley and thyme left over from a lamb roast adventure I had set out on. So there I was with my glass of watered herbs sitting in my fridge starting to look like they'd lost the energy to hold their heads up, and I have too many leftovers in the house to justify doing anything with these poor tired friends. This is where my journey started. I had no idea that it would lead me down a path of butter-induced swooning, but this path would soon overtake the olive oil in my cooking and bring butter back as king.

Sometimes ideas are more of your brain reminding you of things you already know but have yet to really explore. After reading a side note in one of my Sunset recipe annuals* I had recently made a batch of citrus sugar** (it blows cinnamon out of the water as a topping for french toast). With that sitting in the back of my brain, it wasn't too far a reach to get to making an herb butter. So I pull the tiny leaves from my thyme with therapeutic meticulousness, chop it in with my rosemary and parsley, and zested in a lemon that was also waiting for the last leg of it's life to dry up.

Though I would consider my first herb butter relatively elaborate if you were setting out to make it without having a wilting cornucopia of flavorings in your kitchen, one of my favorite things about it is it's casserole-ness. I just dump whatever I have available into a pound of softened butter and store it in my freezer. I even made a butter to baste my thanksgiving turkey with already in October (orange/lemon/tarragon/sage) - I can't wait. Now I eat toast with a frightening regularity and can't leave the grocery store without a fresh baguette. Before the groceries are even put away I've torn off an end of the bread so I can smother it in my new butters.

*the Sunset magazine annuals are some of the best cookbooks I've come across - 1997 is the best (for full disclosure - I was raised in California with a mother who cooked almost entirely out of Sunset cookbooks... so I'm generally as biased as your average Southern Living enthusiast)

**lemon and orange zested into sugar and left to cure together

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