Last weekend I was making a traditional Southern meal of collard greens, fried green tomatoes and red beans and rice, and I thought maybe I could use one item of flair to embellish it. My favorite brown butter cornbread fit the bill. Normally I like cornbread very pure, but this time I thought I'd gild the lily with a bit of jalapeno-sorghum butter.
Yes, I realize some might say that a traditional Southern meal with no meat is a contradiction. Ask me if I care.
These kinds of compound butters are a snap to make. You can improvise with just about any herbs, spices or other flavors that will complement the dish you want to serve them with, and no precision is required. For today's dish you could easily substitute maple syrup or honey if you don't have sorghum.
The basic method is simply to take a chunk of high quality, sweet cream butter (unsalted) at room temperature, knead in your flavorings, and then allow it to chill and infuse for at least an hour. If you want to be fancy you can roll it into a log wrapped in wax paper, and then slice it for serving, but it works just fine to pass it in a ramekin.
Think about a compound butter with any food that you would normally garnish with plain butter, e.g. an ear of corn, mashed potatoes, an omelet.
Here's a rough recipe, but you should feel very free to adapt it to your meal, mood and pantry. Add a comment and let me know what variations you make!
Yields 1/4 lb (8 tablespoons)
- 1/4 lb. (1 stick) high quality sweet cream (unsalted) butter, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon sorghum syrup (or try maple syrup or honey)
- 1 tablespoon jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, very finely diced
- 1 pinch sea salt
- Knead together all ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings, keeping in mind that the jalapeno will grow stronger as it infuses. Fill into a small ramekin and chill for at least 1 hour.