Compound butter—that is, unsalted butter blended with seasonings—is a traditional topping for everything from grilled meats to steamed vegetables. Because it should be made ahead and because it works as an instant sauce, it is like money in the bank, and an easy way to elevate a meal. This is especially true this time of year, when we are all pining for something different and the first local crops are weeks away.
One chef who uses the technique to excellent effect is James McDevitt, corporate chef at Bohlsen Restaurant Group in Islip. (Tellers, Verace and H2O are among the restaurants he oversees.) McDevitt’s Japanese-American heritage and years spent traveling the world helped shape a career that won kudos before he hit 30. “Compound butter is a great way to enhance flavor, and it’s so versatile,” he said.
The mother of compound butters, maître d’hôtel, includes parsley and lemon zest, and it is a classic topping for steak. One of McDevitt’s favorites calls for nothing more than thinly sliced scallions, salt and pepper, but its bright freshness swings a baked potato right into spring. He took us into a bolder realm, too, with the garlicky, sweet-spicy chili sauce called sriracha. Its complex heat makes for a butter that is terrific on steak, pork, chicken and seafood such as mussels and lobster.
And summer’s first corn on the cob? I’m ready.
1. Chef James McDevitt’s sriracha butter is reason alone to cook a steak, but it would give almost anything a suave kick. First, bring a stick of unsalted butter to room temperature; it should be well softened but not oozy. With a rubber spatula, stir together the butter, 3 teaspoons sriracha, 1 tablespoon finely chopped scallions and a pinch of salt until combined well.
2. Put the compound butter on a piece of plastic wrap or parchment and roll up into a log. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to develop.
3. Compound butter freezes beautifully, and it’s easy to cut off frozen slices whenever you need them.
4. Put a pat of butter on a grilled steak while it’s resting or plop it on top of sliced steak, then run it under the broiler for a few seconds. It will melt into all the lovely nooks and crannies.