Introduction: Aromatic Springtime Herbed Butter

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Most people have had herb butter.  

A lot of it leaves something to be desired.  Not all the flavors in fresh or dried herbs are fat soluble, and the tastes don't always intensify.  I was inspired by the first Robot Chef challenge to make an intense herb butter.

I decided at the beginning that it needed more than just herbs and butter.  I wanted some of those elusive water soluble flavors to command attention.  The spring weather has been beautiful here, and the perennial herbs I planted in our front yard are growing enthusiastically.  I wanted the flavors to echo the fresh exuberance of spring... none of that muted pastel crap that usually passes for spring.

These flavors are bold; you can use a milder selection of herbs and omit the lemon juice if you want a softer taste.  This butter would be great on something earthy like seared steak, grilled portobello caps, tofu, shrimp, chicken, or artisan bread.  You can also add a spoonful to hot, fresh steamed vegetables (green beans or asparagus come to mind); toss quickly so the butter can melt and mix with some of the water before it all evaporates to form a scant sauce that clings to the veggies.  Remember that the herb, garlic, and lemon combination is complex.  Keep the delivery method simple, whether it's meat, bread, or veg.  You don't need much of this butter to add a whole lot of flavor.  That's another nice thing about it.

You will need:

8-12 T butter - I use salted because unsalted butter picks up off flavors so easily.  Start with 8 T but keep the extra butter on hand in case your herb butter is too strong or watery and you want to add more butter to even things out.d
2 T sour cream
1/4 C cream cheese
1 lemon
1 clove garlic
a few grinds of black pepper
salt, if you use unsalted butter... add it to taste when you're stirring everything together at the end
1/3 C fresh herbs - 2 mint leaves, a few sprigs of italian parsley, a couple sprigs of thyme, several blades of chives (including the blossoms if you want), a couple sprigs of lemon balm, and half a clary sage leaf


Melt 2 T butter in a bowl.  Set the rest of the butter and cream cheese on the counter to soften at room temperature.  Finely mince the fresh garlic and add it to the melted butter.  Finely chop the clary sage leaf (it's a little thick and fuzzy, not fun to chomp down on) and add it to the melted butter.  Chop the chive blossoms if you have them, and add those to the melted butter, along with the thyme leaves (a bit of a pain to remove from the stems).  Wash the lemon, zest it with a microplane, and add the zest to the melted butter.

Don't use a regular citrus zester for this; a fine microplane makes small enough shavings of the peel that the texture won't be off putting.

Put the sour cream in a separate bowl.  Cut the zested lemon in half.  Squeeze about a tablespoon of lemon juice into the sour cream and save the rest of the lemon for something else that needs some tartness.

Finely chop the chives (minus the blossoms that you already added to the melted butter), lemon balm, mint, and parsley.  Add those to the sour cream mixture.

Once the cream cheese and the rest of the butter have softened, add those to the melted butter mixture.  You can try to mash them together with a fork or use a food processor.  Just be aware that a food processor will cut the herbs into smaller bits, and your herb butter might eventually turn green.

Thoroughly mix the sour cream mixture into the butter mixture.  Grind in some black pepper to taste, and mix that in, too.  Taste a tiny bit (no, really... a very small bit... maybe spread it on bread or a cracker or something) to check the flavor balance.  Add more butter if it really needs it, perhaps if you added too much lemon juice and the mixture is slightly separated.

Herb butter is best if you let the flavors mix and mingle for at least a couple hours.  You can now spread this on some plastic wrap and roll it into a log, or scoop it into a container.  Either way, store it in the fridge until you're ready to serve it.  This spread is soft and should be usable directly from the fridge.

Thanks for reading!  Let me know if you make your own.