Welcome to Vital Choice at Home!
This series features me, Michelle, a writer and soccer mom from the Rocky Mountains, my husband and two kids, some beautiful Vital Choice seafood and lots of regular home cooking.
I want to feature the products and preparations you're curious about. Have a suggestion? Question? Recipe you want me to test? Email me and help to shape this series.
I am a pretty good home cook, but one of my closest friends is a great cook, and years ago introduced me to salmon fillets with compound butter.
I loved it at the time, but was intimidated at the idea of making my own. Frankly, I wasn't entirely sure what compound butter really was … I just knew it tasted delicious.
You know what it is? Softened butter smashed up with … stuff. Flavorings. That's it!
A few minutes on the internet yields hundreds if not thousands of compound butter ideas. There are countless sources of inspiration to get you started.
The beauty of compound butter is that it adds instant flavor. When you try this at home, you'll likely end up with extra compound butter. Save it! It keeps days in the fridge (or months in the freezer).
You can add compound butter as a flavoring element to any kind of protein … chicken, white fish, shrimp, pork, steak. You get the idea! A batch of compound butter goes a long way and is quite versatile.
I absolutely love the flavorful simplicity of these small, skinless and boneless portions. At 425ºF, the fillets cooked in almost exactly 10 minutes. They will cook a little bit faster if you use the grill or broiler.
For my experiment with compound butter, I tried three vastly different preparations – two I just “winged” based on ideas I'd seen online, and one I followed a recipe, largely because I was concerned about getting the balance of flavors right without guidance.
Before I get to the specifics, let me say that for all of these I topped the thawed Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon fillets with about a tablespoon of butter, then roasted them for 10 minutes.
As the salmon cooked to a perfectly flaky finish, the butter slowly melted over the salmon. This couldn't be easier.
Compound Butter #1: Lemon-Dill
The first and simplest compound butter I tried was unsalted butter (4 tablespoons), lemon zest (1/2 teaspoon), lemon juice (1/2 teaspoon) and chopped fresh dill (1 tablespoon). Surprisingly, the flavors mellowed so much during cooking that it was almost too subtle.
That said, I would absolutely repeat this preparation, perhaps adding more lemon zest next time. Everyone felt this “tasted like salmon is supposed to taste.”
Compound Butter #2: Mexican Style
The second compound butter was a semi-success. I combined unsalted butter (4 tablespoons), crumbled feta (1 ounce), lime zest (1 teaspoon) and chopped cilantro (½ tablespoon).
Overall, everyone loved the lime/cilantro combination, but the feta gave the butter an odd, chunky texture, and really seemed unnecessary.
Next time, I'd skip the cheese and stick to cilantro and lime zest. The lime flavor really popped, and this would be excellent with a Mexican-themed dinner.
Compound Butter #3: Asian Style
My last butter tasted nothing like you thought it might, but was still the standout favorite. This is the only butter I used a real recipe for, from the Challenge Butter website
With wasabi paste, fresh ginger, fresh chives, rice vinegar and sesame oil, this butter had a strong, almost overwhelming horseradish smell before it was cooked.
However, after 10 minutes in the oven, the flavors mellowed and came together into a savory-yet-sweet topping that was memorable and delicious.
Interestingly, there was no remaining wasabi flavor. I would add more (or higher-quality) wasabi paste next time. The salmon had zero spice once cooked.
But as the centerpiece of an Asian-inspired meal, this compound butter would be divine. It's definitely worth continuing to tinker with.
I would call my first experience with compound butters on Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon a huge success. My biggest takeaway – you really don't need a recipe.
Soften some butter, then add two or three herbs, zests and seasonings … whatever you have fresh and on hand.
I can't wait to try new combos this summer when my herb garden is full. I don't really think you can go wrong.
Like you, I have a passion for beautiful-yet-healthy food that's easy to prepare.
While I do love making the occasional “fancy” dinner, most of the time I'm short on time and have a house full of hungry people who want to eat NOW.
I'm not a professional chef – I'm just a busy mom who loves to cook and who's focused on that intersection of healthy and delicious.
I want this series to feature the products and preparations you're curious about.
Have a suggestion? Question? Recipe you want me to test?