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Herbs, zests can add depth, flavor to grilled meats and veggies

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Compound butters incorporate herbs and other seasonings to create a single component that boosts the flavor of anything it touches. Steak, citrus and herb butters, from left, can be molded into logs and frozen, to be used when preparing poultry, meats or vegetables.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Slices of the butter are placed atop grilled steak and portobello mushrooms.
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It’s summer and your grill is in overdrive. At the start of the season, you were probably content to cook up perfectly seared but otherwise unadorned steaks, chops and portobello mushrooms. But at this point you may be feeling like dressing them up a bit. Flavored butters do the trick beautifully.

Flavored butters couldn’t be simpler. You start with softened butter (unsalted so you can control the seasoning) and add a little bit of one or more flavorings. If you’re adding solid ingredients, such as shallots or herbs, they must be minced, and you need to keep the amount of those ingredients down. Too many additions and the butter won’t hold together. You also need to keep the amounts down if you’re adding liquids, such as citrus juice or Worcestershire sauce. Butter can absorb only a small bit of liquid.

Whatever your flavorings, roll the butter into a cylinder, which makes it much easier to cut and portion out when it’s time to glorify that steak. If the butter is too soft to roll just after you’ve added the flavorings, put it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm it up. Then just pile the butter onto a piece of plastic wrap and use a rubber spatula to smooth it as best you can into the shape of a cylinder.

I’ve suggested a specific size in the recipes below, but you can make your cylinder any size you want — short and fat or long and thin. And don’t worry if the cylinder isn’t perfectly shaped at first; once you’ve wrapped the plastic around it, it’ll be easier — using the plastic wrap — to make it more shapely. The final touch is to twist the ends like a sausage, which compresses the butter.

If you’re going to use the butter the day you make it or in the following few days, put it in the refrigerator. If you’re stockpiling it for future meals, wrap the cylinders in foil and store it in the freezer. When the moment is ripe, you slice a spoonful of it onto your newly grilled steak and just let it melt. It will mix with the meat’s juices and form an instant and mouthwatering sauce.

The herb butter described at right is the ideal complement to fish, poultry, meats and vegetables. The citrus butter plays nicely with fish and vegetables. And the steak butter is the perfect partner for, uh, steak as well as for mushrooms, especially portobellos. But the possibilities are fairly endless. Now that you know how, you can make up your own flavored butters.

VARIATIONS

Making your own compound butter is fast and simple — from start to finish, it takes just 10 minutes, plus time to chill.

Herb butter

» 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons and softened
» 2 teaspoons minced shallots
» 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, chives, parsley, basil or a mix
» 1 teaspoon kosher salt
» 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Citrus butter

» 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons and softened
» 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
» 1 teaspoon grated lime zest
» 2 teaspoons lemon juice
» 2 teaspoons lime juice
» 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Steak butter

» 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons and softened
» 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
» 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
» 1 clove garlic, finely minced
» 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Use fork or rubber spatula to combine all ingredients, mixing well.

Spread 2 sheets of plastic wrap on counter, each 10 to 12 inches long. Transfer half of butter to each sheet and use plastic spatula to shape into log 6 inches long and 1 inch thick. Wrap butter, smooth the log, then twist ends in until log is about 4 by 1-1/2 inches in size.

Wrap in foil and chill or freeze. Cut off tablespoons and place on grilled steaks, chicken, fish or vegetables. Makes 16 tablespoons.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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