Montpelier Butter

This butter is so good I could eat it with a spoon. In New American Classics (1986) I wrote, “It transforms hot cauliflower; on top of mashed potatoes it is so good that it should be arrested”—and I have not changed my mind since. It is very good at room temperature with cold poached fish, especially salmon, but equally delicious with hot grilled fish. Spooned between slices of cold roast veal or pork with the slices reassembled, left for a day, and then eaten at cool room temperature, it creates a lifelong memory.

This greatest of all butters is traditionally made with a mortar and pestle, but a food processor will do.

Ingredients

  • 6 leaves spinach
  • ½ bunch watercress leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chervil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
  • 2 shallots, peeled, chopped
  • 2 cornichons, rinsed, chopped
  • 4 salted anchovy fillets
  • 2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed, soaked 2 hours, drained
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 hard-cooked egg yolks
  • 2 large raw egg yolks
  • ¼ pound unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup extra virgin light yellow olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Method

Blanch the spinach, watercress, herbs, and shallots in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain, refresh under cold water, and squeeze dry.

Put the mixture in a mortar or food processor. Add the cornichons, anchovies, capers, garlic, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Work with a pestle or process to a smooth paste.

Add the egg yolks and the butter and process again until thoroughly mixed. Leave the butter in the mortar or put it in a bowl and whisk in the oil by hand. The mixture should be glossy and as smooth as velvet. Beat in the vinegar and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Variation

For Singapore butter, slightly char some orange peel over a burner, let it cool, and chop it very finely before adding it to the Montpelier butter along with a little charred and finely minced serrano chili (peeled, seeded, and stemmed; start with ½ teaspoon) and 1 teaspoon of the finest light sesame oil.

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