In many cases — such as when talking about money or sentences — compound is the opposite of simple.

But butter is different. Compound butter is simple to make.

Compound butter is just butter with other things in it, and the other things make the butter better.

If you have been to a steakhouse, and they top off your steak with a pat of butter, that's just butter. But if they top it off with butter that has bits of green in it, or brown, or if the butter is kind of red, that's compound butter.

Compound butters work so well because fats are terrific conductors of flavor. If you mix a relatively small amount of an herb into a relatively large amount of butter, very soon all the butter will have the flavor of the herb. This is the same reason (or one of the same reasons) that you cook onions or garlic in butter or oil before adding other ingredients.

With compound butters, you can be as creative as you wish. I happen to love a spice mix by Penzeys called Sunny Paris. I could mix a teaspoon of the Sunny Paris mixture into a stick of butter and almost instantly end up with a delicious way to add extra punch to anything from eggs to sandwiches, from chicken to veal.

You could grate orange peel into butter and make a compound butter to melt on top of duck or spread on toast (and if you wanted to add a few drops of Grand Marnier, I certainly wouldn't hold it against you). You could even blend some smoked salmon that has been pureed into butter and make a spread that would be incredible on toast points with a bowl of chowder. And just think of how you could use it with bagels.

Making compound butter is ridiculously easy. Simply leave butter out to become soft. Stir in chopped herbs or any other flavoring that strikes your fancy, even wine. You can use it immediately or store it for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator or a few months in the freezer.

If you put it in the fridge, you could just leave it in the bowl you mixed it in for the sake of convenience, but most chefs prefer to roll it into a log shape. That way, they can slice off pretty coin-shaped pats of the flavored butter whenever they need them.

If you'd like, you can whip the butter in a stand mixer before adding the other ingredients. That will make it easier to spread, even fresh out of the refrigerator.

Whipped compound butters often make a happy appearance at pancake houses, usually sweetened and mixed with a fruit such as strawberries. But you don't have to go out to have it, you can stay at home and make it yourself. All you need are butter, strawberries and powdered sugar — plus maybe a fresh, homemade biscuit to spread it on.

The batch I made tasted delightfully of strawberries and was not at all too sweet.

Most compound butters are savory. Perhaps the best known has the most daunting name, Beurre Maitre d'Hotel, so called because it was often made tableside by a restaurant's maitre d'.

But even with this impressive pedigree, it is still easy to make — remember, a very busy man would make it at your table. All you need is the softened butter, chopped parsley, a healthy amount of lemon juice and salt and pepper. Just stir and use immediately or refrigerate and use on steak or fresh-baked bread.

Because it has more ingredients than the other compound butters I made, it has a fuller, more powerful flavor. It does not take much Beurre Maitre d'Hotel to transform a dish.

For a subtler taste, I combined two of my favorite aromatics, green onions and garlic. But I feared that raw garlic would add too harsh a taste for most applications, so I first gently sauteed a clove in olive oil — and then I used the oil, not the garlic.

A tablespoon of garlic-scented oil blended easily with the butter and minced green onions, and the oil only made the butter a little more soft when it was being mixed in. Once refrigerated, you couldn't tell a difference at all.

You don't even have to stick to herbs, fruits and spices for your compound butter. One of the most famous varieties is anchovy butter. I happen to like anchovies, so I made it. I just mixed four minced anchovy fillets into one stick of butter and ended up with a pungent, piquant slice of happiness that goes wonderfully with grilled meat, eggs and pasta. And I can't wait to try it on veal.

I was also struck by a compound butter recipe I saw that combines red wine, shallots, parsley and butter. Basically, it is the red wine shallot sauce that is popular at so many steakhouses, only with more butter and less wine.

Naturally, it goes especially well with steak.

Anchovies, strawberries, red wine, spice mixes — obviously, you can use just about anything to make a compound butter. All it takes is a stick of butter and a little imagination.

SUNNY PARIS BUTTER

Yield: 1 stick butter, 16 (1 tablespoon) servings

1 stick butter, softened

1 teaspoon Sunny Paris spice mix, or your favorite spice mix

Place butter in a bowl. Stir in spice mix until thoroughly blended. Place flavored butter toward one end of a piece of plastic wrap, waxed paper or parchment paper, and roll into a log. Twist ends to seal, and refrigerate.

Per serving: 51 calories; 6 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 15 mg cholesterol; no protein; no carbohydrate; no sugar; no fiber; 50 mg sodium; 2 mg calcium.

Recipe by Daniel Neman

AROMATIC BUTTER

Yield: 1 stick butter, 16 (1 tablespoon) servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed

1 green onion, minced

1 stick salted butter, softened

1. Heat oil and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat until garlic is just brown on both sides. Remove garlic clove and allow oil to cool.

2. Place butter in a bowl. Stir in olive oil and green onion until thoroughly blended. Place flavored butter toward one end of a piece of plastic wrap, waxed paper or parchment paper, and roll into a log. Twist ends to seal, and refrigerate.

Per serving: 59 calories; 7 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 15 mg cholesterol; no protein; no carbohydrate; no sugar; no fiber; 51 mg sodium; 3 mg calcium.

Recipe by Daniel Neman

MAITRE D' BUTTER

Yield: 1 stick butter, 16 (1 tablespoon) servings

1 stick butter, softened

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

2 pinches black pepper

Note: If using unsalted butter, add \ teaspoon salt.

Place butter in a bowl. Stir the remaining ingredients until thoroughly blended. Place flavored butter toward one end of a piece of plastic wrap, waxed paper or parchment paper, and roll into a log. Twist ends to seal, and refrigerate.

Per serving: 51 calories; 6 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 15 mg cholesterol; no protein; no carbohydrate; no sugar; no fiber; 51 mg sodium; 3 mg calcium.

Recipe from Le Cordon Bleu, Miami

ANCHOVY BUTTER

Yield: 1 stick butter, 16 (1 tablespoon) servings

1 stick butter, softened

4 anchovy fillets, rinsed, dried and minced

Place butter in a bowl. Stir in anchovies until thoroughly blended. Place flavored butter toward one end of a piece of plastic wrap, waxed paper or parchment paper, and roll into a log. Twist ends to seal, and refrigerate.

Per serving: 53 calories; 6 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 16 mg cholesterol; no protein; no carbohydrate; no sugar; no fiber; 87 mg sodium; 4 mg calcium.

Recipe by Daniel Neman

RED WINE COMPOUND BUTTER

Yield: 1 stick butter, 16 (1 tablespoon) servings

1 cup red wine

1 medium shallot, finely chopped

1 stick butter, softened

2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1. In a small pot, bring the wine and shallots to a boil over high heat. Cook until the wine has almost completely evaporated, stirring occasionally to keep the shallots from burning. Transfer to a mixing bowl and let cool.

2. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, combine butter, shallot-wine mixture, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

3. Place flavored butter toward one end of a piece of plastic wrap, waxed paper or parchment paper, and roll into a log. Twist ends to seal, and refrigerate. Goes especially well with steak.

Per serving: 53 calories; 6 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 15 mg cholesterol; no protein; no carbohydrate; no sugar; no fiber; 51 mg sodium; 3 mg calcium.

Adapted from a recipe by Raven Higheagle

STRAWBERRY BUTTER

Yield: 1 stick butter, 16 (1 tablespoon) servings

1 stick butter, softened

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 cup hulled and coarsely chopped fresh strawberries

Note: If using unsalted butter, add { teaspoon salt

1. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and salt (if using) until light, about 1 minute. Add strawberries and beat until combined but not totally uniform.

2. Transfer to ramekins or small serving dishes and chill until ready to serve, or place flavored butter toward one end of a piece of plastic wrap, waxed paper or parchment paper, and roll into a log. Twist ends to seal, and refrigerate.

Per serving: 56 calories; 6 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 15 mg cholesterol; no protein; 1 g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; no fiber; 51 mg sodium; 3 mg calcium.

Adapted from a recipe by Martha Stewart

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