What’s Cooking: Compounded butter and salmon

What’s Cooking: Compounded butter and salmon

With Jan D’Atri

I found the dusty, well-worn cookbook in an old antique store off the beaten path in Ogden, Iowa. In researching the author, I was thrilled that I had stumbled across a treasure. The Gold Cook Book, first published in 1947, was written by Louis P. De Gouy, the chef at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for 30 years. He was also one of the original founders of Gourmet Magazine and the author of 16 cookbooks. In The Gold Cook Book, I found an entire chapter devoted to something you don’t find as a separate section in many cookbooks today: compounded butters.

My favorite line opening the chapter reads, “Compounded (creamed) butters in cookery are the finishing touch to food, be it a soup, fish, meat, sauce or vegetable as is powder and make-up to the face of a beautiful woman.” The chapter covered every compounded butter from anchovy to truffle butter and I was struck at how simple these compounds are, often mixing together just two or three ingredients into the softened butter.

The great thing about compounded butters is they can be made ahead, stored in a closed jar and refrigerated indefinitely. I chose a recipe for garlic butter. I love the idea of pairing it with a simple salmon fillet. Adding some fresh-squeezed lime juice to the compound gave the salmon a bright, flavorful finish. Choose fresh, thick slices of salmon, cook them in a grill pan or skillet with a little salt and lemon pepper and then drop a dollop of compounded garlic lime butter on top for a perfect light meal in minutes.

For the salmon:
4 (approx. 6 oz) 1-inch thick salmon fillets, skin on
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
For the compounded garlic lime butter
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened but firm
1 clove garlic, minced fine
2 tablespoons of fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:
Prepare compounded garlic lime butter by combining 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, minced garlic, lime juice, salt and pepper. Mix until well blended. Refrigerate until ready to use. Heat a grill pan or skillet to medium-high heat. Add two tablespoons olive oil and one tablespoon of butter to pan. When hot, place salmon fillets in skillet, skin side down. Sprinkle fillets with lemon pepper and salt. Cook for three to four minutes depending on thickness of fillet. Turn fillets over and cook for another four to five minutes. When done, place fillets on a plate or platter and spoon one teaspoon of compounded garlic lime butter on top of each fillet. Garnish with lime wedges. Serves four.