For many years (too many years) people have avoided butter for fear of heart disease, clogged arteries and larger love handles. They've turned to margarine for toast and apple sauce for baking recipes. I am here to tell you a little butter won't do you harm. Personally, a little butter (in terms of flavor) provides much more satiety than the substitutes. Fat is also very essential in our diets. That said, not all butter is created equal.
Have you ever wondered why some butter is white and some butter is yellow or golden? Ever wondered why some butter is wrapped in foil and others in translucent paper? Basically it's all science. :) Before we get to this weeks sauce - practically pure butter - let's talk some more about the star of the recipe.
You are what you eat, and so are cows. Cows that are pasture fed (instead of corn or grain fed) have an abundance of flowers and fresh grass full of the yellow pigment beta carotene. These pigments because they are fat soluble get stored in the fat. This is carried over into the fat in a cows milk. You may be wondering then why does milk appear white? Well, some milk is white again due to the cows diet, but even cows raised in pasture still provide white milk. So why is it white? There is only 3% milk fat in whole milk. Even in cream it is 30 to 40% fat. There is so much more water and minerals and protein floating around, it does not appear yellow. Butter however is 80% fat, and with that high concentration, if the beta carotene is in the fat, it will be that beautiful golden yellow.
The more color in the butter, the better in terms of vitamins and minerals. So, if it's white pick a different option. The difference in butter that is covered in tin foil versus the clear wrapping is due to the salt content. If salt content is present, the butter is less susceptible to becoming rancid, so sweet cream butter (or unsalted butter) is usually what you will find in the tin foil. If you are leaving the butter on your counter and exposed to air, you are better off choosing the salted version, to avoid it becoming rancid.
The butter in European butter is often treated with some bacteria, which makes it taste even better! There is a higher concentration of the fatty acid butyrate. In some studies, higher intake of butyrate is associated with greater satiety and less overall calorie consumption. This also could just be because it comes with sources of fat, which are very satisfying. I love me some Kerrygold Irish butter. I also love a new European butter Trader Joes is making from Brittany France that is cultured and salted, yummy.
Okay, so let's talk Compound Butters. And why is this a sauce? Compound butters can be used over cooked steak, cooked chicken, corn on the cob, pork, and cooked vegetables to finish them. It is a beautiful way to serve something. And the herbs make it so delicious. The butter placed over a warm dish melts and becomes the richest most satisfying of sauces. You can really use any herbs to compliment the meal you are preparing. You could simply do chive and cilantro for a more Hispanic flare. You could use an Herbs de Provence blend with it's use of lavender for a more floral component. Check out this recipe below, it has a wide range of applications and tastes so good. Sometimes I will even add some cracked pepper or red chili flakes into the mixture for an added bite.
1 pound butter (go for the good stuff - European, salted)
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh chives
1 Tbsp thyme
1 Tbsp sage
1 Tbsp rosemary
Chop the butter into uniform chunks (it is easier using a chilled knife). Use a food processor and add oil and chives, process until chives are finely chopped. Add remaining herbs and blend until herbs have colored the oil. If you have a stand mixer whip butter at medium speed until it softens and lightens in color. You are essentially whipping in air, which is a good thing, it will help the herbs and oil incorporate more easily.
Next add in the herb oil to the butter and beat another 2 minutes until the oil is fully incorporated. Remove butter with a spoon and place on parchment paper or plastic wrap. Roll into a log and chill for at least 2 hours before serving. You can serve by cutting a slice of chilled compound butter and placing over the top of any meat or vegetable.
Caitlin Johnson is a dietitian, wife, lover of ice cream, chef wannabe, California-girl, Christian, liver eating, "food-avore."
218 W. Carmen Lane, Suite 108
Santa Maria, California 93458
Hours: Tues and Thurs 9-5 PST