Chefs Butter Up Menus
Amidst the hullabaloo about butter coffee (let's not even get into that and acknowledge its existence), it's evident that butter is back in a big way. It had some hard knocks over the years due largely to fad diets and Paula Deen's public antics, but everyone's favorite fat has come a long way. And dexterous chefs know that not only is butter a peerless resource for enriching dishes, but it serves as a great blank canvas for other flavors in the form of compound butters. Since lipids cling to supplemental flavors so well, compound butters are an excellent way to imbue rich, lustrous sensations to just about anything, from grilled vegetables to pasta, beef, and more. Not coffee. Here's a salacious, drool-able roundup of compound butters to put in your mouth right now. Like, go eat.
(Honey Butter Fried Chicken)
Pie shops don't shy away from butter. An essential ingredient in pie crusts, streusels, and fillings, butter is a crucial component at places like Bang Bang Pie Shop. But even beyond pie, butter is front-and-center on Bang Bang's biscuits. Not only are these fluffy biscuits innately buttery in and of themselves, but the shop boasts a dizzying array of seasonal compound butters as well, designed to accompany biscuits as supplements. Dijon-ramp butter, honey-almond butter, and orange-lavender butter are among the dynamic roster of riches.
Honey Butter Fried Chicken is a place so ardent about compound butters they named their restaurant after it. Actually, the concept developed out of a strong fan following for Sunday Dinner Club's successful fried chicken dinners, wherein chefs Christine Cikowski and Joshua Kulp received acclaim for their honey butter-adjoined fried chicken. This grew into a brick-and-mortar restaurant concept in Avondale, where the crux of the menu is hinged on crispy fried chicken served with silken dollops of sweet honey butter. It sounds indulgent, but the duo works so well together. Honey butter is the best way to gild the deep-fried lily anyway.
At Mott St, executive chef Edward Kim is adapting vigorous Asian flavors into butters to adjoin vegetables and mushrooms. Think sahmjang butter with grilled leeks and chopped almonds, and miso butter served to embolden pan-seared oyster mushrooms with thyme.
New to the food menu at The Drawing Room is a seasonal riff on that Mexican street food favorite: elotes. Aka succulent sweet corn enriched with ramp butter, chili-lime sar vecchio aioli, pickled ramps, and ancho pepper.
Find your way to Found in Evanston and follow the aroma of blood orange butter, which lends a rich, citrusy splash of flavor to a whole-roasted shrimp dish. For chef Nicole Pederson, fusing blood orange with butter is a surefire way to balance fat with some zesty vibrancy. The rest of the dish contains baby bok choy, and other citruses.
Possibly the richest butter on the market right now is the bone marrow butter at Sepia. Sound decadent enough for you? It's basically meat butter combined with actual butter and served with ricotta cavatelli, fava beans, ramps, and stinging nettles.
Steak and blue cheese go together like peanut butter and jelly. At The Signature Room, chef Cardel Reid raises the bar on the commonplace duo by making a compound butter out of Cabrales blue cheese and serving it atop grilled petit filet. Much more than a standard blue cheese topping, this stuff melts down atop the steak, enriching it with aromatic, buttery flavor. It's all served with wilted wild greens and natural sauce.
TWO may very well be the reigning champ of compound butters. The menu changes frequently, but recent items include bruschetta with summer vegetables and carrot butter, housemade biscuit with ramp butter, and Alaskan halibut en pappillote with spring onions, sugar snap peas, shiitake mushrooms, and walnut butter.
- Matt Kirouac