Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lemon Mustard Butter (Page 895)

  • Date: Thursday, March 15, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matt's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B

This is another one that I picked solely because it took less than ten minutes to make. As compound butters go, it was pretty good. The recipe called for too much lemon juice though for the given quantity of butter, the effect of which was that much of the lemon juice dripped out when the butter log was formed. I served this with steak (as that was the only meat in the freezer), but Matt pointed out it would have been more appropriate just spread on some bread. The Book frequently suggests serving the compound butters on meat, which honestly I don't particularly understand. When you put compound butter on hot meat (as we did this evening) it just melts. So why not make a lovely butter sauce with mustard and lemon mixed in instead? It would be less fussy with the same net effect. Perhaps it's a stylistic thing, although I think sauce looks better too. Maybe certain ingredients would separate out too much from melted butter? I'm not sure. In any event, compound butter would definitely be superior to a sauce for, say, spreading on bread. But I'm not sure I would choose a compound butter to accompany my meat again. Lucky for me, I have another 4 compound butter recipes in The Book with which to test various accompaniments.

I have been, for the most part, avoiding the Sauces and Salsas section of The Book. I can't offer any satisfying explanation for this. I love sauces. I love salsas. There's just no glamor in it though. If you make a beautiful cake, or a hearty stew, or a fresh, delicious salad, it feels like an accomplishment. I have trouble getting excited about sauce though.

In culinary school we had to master the French mother sauces (bechamel, hollandaise, veloute, mayonaise, and espagnole). I'm not a huge fan of any of the above -- certainly they all have delicious derivative sauces, but by themselves they are just ok. The first four are easy to make and extremely quick. Espagnole though is an investment. It involves about an hour of constant stirring followed by another hour (or more) of reducing and skimming. I made this at school one very warm July afternoon. Six of us were practicing our espagnole that day, and it was hot. I carefully seasoned my sauce when it was complete, brought it to the chef for critique, and then went to throw it away. Probably now I would have saved it. I would have brought it home and enjoyed it. But back then, the mere idea of a sauce that was essentially ultra-reduced veal stock, did not appeal to me at all. It was the most condensed, intense meat flavor you can imagine. At the time I was barely eating meat at all, still recovering from my decade as a vegetarian. Fortunately, my friend Russ saved it from the trash. He took it home with him and fed it to his wife and kids that night with steaks.

There's no espagnole in The Book, but there are a lot of sauces to make. My plan is to do a lot of sauces in the next couple weeks... Eventually I need to tackle those 8 mayonaise recipes!

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