published Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Buttered up

By the end of summer, most cooks have refined their grilling techniques and settled on their favorite seasonings.

But if you’re firing up the grill for Labor Day, here’s a flavor twist you may not have considered: butter. Not just for bread, butter can be mixed with a number of spices to amp up the flavor of any meat, fish or vegetable.

Chef Josh Wool of Hennen’s knows how to prepare a great steak but said flavored butter helps to enhance the flavor without covering it up.

“Any time you add that fat to a lean cut, it will make things taste better and add moisture and shine, which is both aesthetic and flavor-enhancing,” Wool said.

Lobster butter — butter with a little lobster meat and lemon juice — is good on steaks and fish, Wool said. But a classic maitre d’ butter is hard to beat.

“It’s a classic,” he said. “With lemon juice, parsley and salt mixed into butter, it’s perfect for steak and good on fish, too.”

So how do they work? Simplicity is the beauty of this. Just take a stick of real butter and add herbs or seasonings, even citrus or cheese.

For an artistic touch, load the seasoned butter into a cookie press and shoot it onto a plate or platter. If done in advance, the butter can be placed in the fridge to harden so it will retain its shape until serving time.

“By simply adding flavored butter to meats, seafood, vegetables or just about anything you prepare on the grill, you can greatly enhance the overall taste of your dish,” said Becky Wahlund, test kitchen director for Land O’Lakes. “Flavored butters are simple to prepare, and it takes just a small pat to turn an ordinary grilled creation into an extraordinary one.”

Caramelized Onion Butter

Serve this savory butter with your favorite grilled steak or veggie, or as a spread on artisan bread.

2 tablespoons butter

2 large (2 cups) onions, coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 cup butter, softened

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium heat until sizzling; add onion, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden brown and caramelized (20 to 25 minutes). Place onions into medium bowl; cool 10 minutes.

Add 1 cup butter to onions; mix well. Toss with hot cooked rice or vegetables, or serve on grilled meat.

— Land O’Lakes

Herb Seasoned Butter

Use this savory butter to add fabulous taste to the simplest grilled foods.

1 cup butter, softened

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots or green onions

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh garlic

Combine all ingredients in small bowl. Beat at medium speed until well mixed. Store refrigerated in container with tight-fitting lid up to 2 weeks. Serve with warm artisan breads or tossed with hot cooked pasta. Or brush on meats, poultry or fish when grilling.

— Land O’Lakes

Blue Cheese Butter

Outstanding on grilled steaks.

6 ounces of butter at room temperature (softened)

1/2 pound Bleu cheese of your choice, crumbled (try a fairly strong blue cheese, maybe a Roquefort or Stilton)

3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire

3/4 teaspoon coarse black pepper

In a bowl, cream the butter until smooth. Fold in the cheese, Worcestershire sauce and pepper (some chunks of the blue cheese should remain). Roll in plastic wrap or parchment paper and twist the ends to close. If not using immediately, refrigerate (3 days maximum) or freeze (2 months, maximum). If frozen, cut into 1 1/2-ounce pieces, let thaw and place on top of hot steaks.

— real-restaurant-recipes.com

Avocado Butter

A delicious accompaniment to grilled chicken.

6 ounces ripe avocado meat, approximately 2 small avocados

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 ounces unsalted butter, softened

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon freshly chopped cilantro leaves

2 teaspoons ground cumin

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel and pit the avocados. Place all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and process until well combined. Place mixture onto a sheet of parchment paper and shape into a log. Place in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours. Slice and serve with grilled fish or chicken.

— www.foodnetwork.com

SAMPLER

For burgers. try cheddar cheese butter or basil butter.

For corn on the cob, try Cajun butter.

For fish, try chive butter.

For steak, try horseradish butter.

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