When I turned thirteen, one of my Bat Mitzvah presents was a copy of the culinary tome Larousse Gastronomique. I spent many nights reading it as you would any book, completely awed by the particular brand of French haute cuisine it embodied. Highly technical, refined, and so stuffy and old-fashioned that you can't help but to find it charming. The reader is instructed to accompany many of the dishes described within (such as chateaubriand, fish a l'anglaise, squab, or lamb loin) with a compound butter (and often a garnish of watercress leaves). Compound butters are just a fancy term for flavored butter, and it is generally rolled into a log and sliced. A particularly ubiquitous one is maitre d'hotel butter, which is flavored with parsley and lemon juice.
I wondered if a compound butter might be a welcome stand-in for gravy on a roast turkey. Plus, no flour! No cornstarch! Rather than a delicate lemon-parsley blend, I made it intensely flavorful with porcini mushrooms and a medley of fresh herbs. I made a roast turkey breast in the crock pot (recipe) and decided to try it out. My husband looked at his plate quizzically, poking at the medallion of butter atop his turkey. "What am I supposed to do with this thing?" he asked. It occurred to me that not everyone was a weird kid who read Gastronomique and stole their parents' Grand Marnier for the sole purpose of using it in crepes and thus woefully old-fashioned presentations like this may spark confusion. My dreams of putting out a plate of butter medallions atop watercress leaves with a tiny two-pronged fork and having everyone ooh and aah over my classy presentation were dashed. However, once he dug in, he said it was delicious and asked for seconds. The butter melted onto the warm meat and created a glossy sauce. So I can still heartily recommend this.
PORCINI-HERB COMPOUND BUTTER
- 4 Tbs butter, softened
- 1/3 oz dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 Tbs minced fresh parsley leaves
- 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
- 1 tsp minced fresh thyme
- 1/2 tsp chopped fresh mint (probably optional, I don't think it added much)
- 1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
- 1/2 tsp table salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- Rehydrate the mushrooms in hot water for 10 minutes. Rinse, dry thoroughly, and mince.
- Use a fork to stir all the flavorings into the butter.
- On a piece of plastic wrap, use the back of a knife to shape the mixture into a chubby block. Roll it up and twist both ends. Let firm in the freezer. To serve, cut off slices.