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Compound Butter Recipes

More than a baker’s dozen compound butters for grilled fish (and other uses).

Back in the 1980s we ate naked fish--simply grilled and accompanied by flavored butters or bright, light sauces--at the Hayes Street Grill in San Francisco and marveled at the pure snap of the flavors. This was the apotheosis of a new California cuisine; ultra-fresh, locally sourced ingredients simply enhanced by robust accents. Or was it?

The authors of English cookery books have advocated the simplest preparation for the freshest fish over a period of centuries, and have recommended serving them with a dollop of “savoury butters” flavored variously with anchovies, cinnamon, chives, devils, green herbs, mushroom ketchup and more. Both of the great 1970s Elizabeths, Ayrton (she with an ‘s,’ however, not a ‘z’) and David, recommend cinnamon butter in particular to accompany grilled saltwater fish. Try not to laugh, and bear with us; the cinnamon sings with oilers like bluefish or mackerel.

Recipes for compound butters are simple, and even easier (and faster) if you have a food processor, but they do not keep for long in the refrigerator.

As britishfoodinamerica frequently iterates, proportions are not ironclad and really depend on personal taste. The butters will be richer or tangier depending on how you vary the relative amounts of each element. Four Tablespoons is good base for four servings.