As one of the fathers of the modern French cuisine Fernand Point once put it like that: “Butter! Give me butter! Always butter!” (this and his other statements and writings can be found in his famous book Ma Gastronomie). It is true that many cooks love butter. And there is a reason for it. Butter gives a pleasant creamy flavour to sauces, it adds complexity, it enhances mouthfeel, it complements many foods, it changes the texture. It’s truly a marvellous ingredient.
There are times when you need a soft, malleable piece of butter. But odds are that you rarely remember to bring it to the room temperature in the first place. You can simply wait until it softens or use a microwave. But the latter is the best option when a recipe calls for melted butter. Cooking a luxurious dip for lobster tails, baking Christmas cookies, or making the topping for popcorn? Melt your butter in a microwave for 30-50 seconds, until the greater part of the chunk is melted. The smaller unmelted parts that are left behind will dissolve with a little stirring.
But sometimes you don’t need melted butter, you want it semisolid. And one of the ways to quickly get the right texture is to grate it. Even straight from the fridge or even frozen, grating works well for butter. Grate it right into the bowl or onto a plate. You can even try to use a cheese grater if you need uniform slices. The more obvious way is to cube butter into smaller chunks and wait just a little until they succumb to the room temperature.
In some cases (in baking for instance) you might want to place the butter between the sheets of parchment paper or in a reusable zipper storage bag and gently pound it with a rolling pin. Or – cut a slab of butter into lumps and then hit them until flattened, scrape together and fold onto itself. This is the way to keep your butter cold but make it pliable enough to be rolled out thin. This is how puff pastry is made. This is the kind that becomes gorgeous cinnamon rolls, layered chocolate croissants, flaky cheesy turnovers, puffed pizza, crisp cherry pies, and whatnot!
If you have a piece of aromatic and tasty butter, try to incorporate it into your meals. There are some axiomatic ways like frying an omelette, basting a steak, or baking a cookie – situations when you definitely want to use some butter. But there are less obvious cases. People usually add cream to their coffee, but butter works too. Stir a little piece of it into your brew and drink right away. You’ll notice the different mellowness and richness, a new flavour that you might accidentally fall in love with. That’s for mornings.
As for lunch, add some butter into the soup right before serving. Basic chicken noodle soup or a classic chowder will become way better with that simple addition. And to top it off, use butter over boiled or steamed veggies. Corn, zucchini, pepper, peas, eggplant, onions. Just melt some butter in the microwave and drizzle your vibrant bowl of vitamins with some liquid gold. Yes, it sounds corny, but even some banal things can give you a new flavour experience. And one more thing – don’t forget to use salt and pepper.