Recipe: Paris Butter
Last spring my teenage daughter came home from high school and uttered a sentence I had never, ever thought to hear. “We had something AMAZING for lunch today, and I wonder if you could learn to make it?”
My child is not a fan of school lunches since the chefs insist on diversifying the menu beyond what every teenage girl wants to eat: pizza. So, it was with a mixture of delight and trepidation that I asked what dish had got her so excited. “It was called ‘Paris Butter’ and it was on a steak. It was the best thing I ever ate in my life.”
Well, gauntlet thrown down and all that. It was but the work of a moment to google “Paris Butter”, which is more formally known as Cafe de Paris butter. There's not a lot of history on this delightful compound butter (a mere blip on a wikipedia page), except that it was invented in Geneva in the 1940s and was an immediate success. The recipe is no more or less than a long list of suggested ingredients, and it took a bit of experimenting to find which exact ingredients – 27 at our last experiment! – and in what proportion would make the yummiest compound for our palates and purposes.
Because that’s what it is. Maybe you’ve made herb butter. I’ve made garlic butter. The idea behind a compound butter is simply to whip the chosen seasonings together with softened butter in your food processor or blender, then roll in foil and freeze. According to Real Simple magazine, butter can safely be kept in the freezer for 6 to 9 months, and none of the many ingredients in Paris Butter degrades more quickly than that. Happily, this means you can keep the log – rolled to the approximate diameter of a banana – in your freezer for a good, comforting time, cutting off a slice about the thickness of a poker chip whenever you need it.
And you’ll need it! We started out watching it melt tantalizingly over steaks, of course, to get the full school-lunch experience (my daughter reported my version was even better, which came as an enormous relief to me). Then we graduated to spreading it across a grilled chicken breast, a fillet of sautéed sole. Believe it or not, melted and hot, it makes the BEST drizzle for popcorn that you have ever tasted. Because summertime in our family means copious numbers of ears of sweet corn, it was only natural that a slab of Paris Butter would find its melting way over the succulent ears. Pure heaven. And atop a creamy mound of mashed potatoes? More heaven.
Of course when you read the list of 27 ingredients, you will think I am having a Willy Wonka moment, and rest assured that if I hadn’t had a report straight from the teenager’s mouth about the deliciousness, I would never have dared to put them all together in one food processor. All I can tell you is that this butter is the ultimate in umami, that essentially, indefinably savory element in foods. The butter, smooth and silky, contains every happy flavor you can imagine: the tartness of lemon juice and zest, the bitter woodiness of rosemary, the fire of cayenne, the slight fishiness of anchovy, the complex Englishness of Worcestershire sauce, the sweetness of Thai fish sauce, the sourness of capers.
How would it be on sautéed scallops? On half a grilled lobster? Or even… plain?
But you didn’t hear THAT here.
(makes a large banana-sized roll, keeps for up to 9 months in foil in the freezer)
250g/1 cup butter
1 tbsp each: garlic, shallots, cornichons, capers, fresh tarragon, fresh thyme, fresh dill, fresh chives, fresh rosemary, tomato paste, pine nuts, brandy, madeira
1 tsp Dijon mustard, lemon zest, anchovy
Dash fish sauce, Worcester sauce, Tabasco
1 pinch each: curry powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, celery salt, ground cumin
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Sea salt and pepper
This recipe originally appeared on kristeninlondon.com. It is re-posted here with permission of the author.
Photo Credit: Avery Curran
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