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Recipes: Flavored butters can perk up your grilled corn and potatoes

After grilling these staples, add some flair with compound butters featuring Parmesan, rosemary, miso, tahini, and more.

Photographs by anthony tieuli; food styling by Sheila jarnes/Ennis inc.

As summer treats go, fresh local corn slathered with plain butter is a classic. If, however, you like to experiment, flavored butters (also called compound butters) are easy to engineer. They’ve been around for ages, and along with classic combos like Parmesan, garlic, and rosemary, ingredients newer to the American pantry — tahini, sumac, and miso, for instance — have jolted flavored butters into the 21st century.

Use these recipes as starting points for your own combinations; the possibilities are practically limitless. Recipes for grilled corn and potatoes follow, but flavored butters also work beautifully on grilled asparagus, cabbage, mushrooms, zucchini, and sweet potatoes, to say nothing of grilled fish, shrimp, clams, steaks, and turkey burgers. You get the idea.

PARMESAN-GARLIC-ROSEMARY BUTTER WITH BLACK PEPPER

Makes about 2/3  cup

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8        tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted

           butter, softened

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½      cup finely grated Parmesan

2½   teaspoons pressed or grated garlic (about 4 medium cloves)

2        teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

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Salt and freshly ground pepper

¼      cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Using a fork, in a small bowl mash together the butter, Parmesan, garlic, rosemary, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1½ teaspoons pepper, and parsley until very well blended. Adjust the seasoning with salt if necessary. Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes. Rest the butter at room temperature for a few minutes to soften slightly, and serve.

SCALLION-MINT BUTTER

Makes about 2/3  cup

8        tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/3        cup finely chopped fresh mint

¼      cup thinly sliced scallion whites and greens (about 2 medium)

Salt

Using a fork, in a small bowl mash together the butter, mint, scallions, and ¾ teaspoon salt until very well blended. Adjust the seasoning with salt if necessary. Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes. Rest the butter at room temperature for a few minutes to soften slightly, and serve.

SPICY NEW ORLEANS BBQ BUTTER

Makes about ½ cup

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.

8        tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1½    tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1         tablespoon tomato paste

2        teaspoons pressed or grated garlic (about 3 medium cloves)

1½    teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

1½    teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme

1½    teaspoons paprika

½      teaspoon cayenne

Salt and ground black pepper

Using a fork, in a small bowl mash together the butter, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, garlic, rosemary, thyme, paprika, cayenne, ½ teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper until very well blended. Adjust the seasoning with salt if necessary. Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes. Rest the butter at room temperature for a few minutes to soften slightly, and serve.

TAHINI-GARLIC BUTTER WITH SUMAC

Makes about 2/3  cup

This butter is terrific spread on rolls for turkey burgers hot off the grill.

8        tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

3        tablespoons tahini, at room temperature

1½    teaspoons pressed or grated garlic (about 2 medium cloves)

1½    teaspoon ground sumac

Salt

¼      cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Using a fork, in a small bowl mash together the butter, tahini, garlic, sumac, ½ teaspoon salt, and parsley until very well blended. Adjust the seasoning with salt if necessary. Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes. Rest the butter at room temperature for a few minutes to soften slightly, and serve.

MISO BUTTER

Makes about 2/3  cup

Many such recipes suggest a 1-to-1 ratio of miso to butter. I tried a range, and preferred significantly less miso.

8        tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

3        tablespoons white (shiro) miso, or more, to taste

Salt and pepper

¼      cup thinly sliced scallion whites and greens (about 2 medium)

Using a fork, in a small bowl mash together the butter, miso, ¼ teaspoon salt, pepper to taste, and scallions until very well blended. Adjust the seasoning with miso, salt, or pepper if necessary. Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes. Rest the butter at room temperature for a few minutes to soften slightly, and serve.

TIP: WRAPPED AND ROLLED

 To make nice neat logs of butter for presentation or storage, chill the mixture slightly  (so it will be less sticky to work with) and scrape it onto a sheet of parchment paper, wax  paper, or plastic wrap. Fold the paper or wrap over the butter, and gently shape the mass  into a cylinder. Smooth the surface, roll up the cylinder and twist the ends to make the  cylinder airtight, and refrigerate (or wrap the cylinder in foil and freeze).

Anthony Tieuli

To make nice neat logs of butter for presentation or storage, chill the mixture slightly (so it will be less sticky to work with) and scrape it onto a sheet of parchment paper, wax paper, or plastic wrap. Fold the paper or wrap over the butter, and gently shape the mass into a cylinder. Smooth the surface, roll up the cylinder and twist the ends to make the cylinder airtight, and refrigerate (or wrap the cylinder in foil and freeze).

BASIC GRILLED CORN

Serves 6

6        medium ears corn

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high. (If using a gas grill, adjust burners to medium-high and grill with the lid closed.) Meanwhile, remove all but the innermost layers of husks from the corn (the kernels should be covered, but visible through the layers) and the long silk ends at the tip of each ear. Grill the corn, rotating  the ears ¼ turn every 2 to 3 minutes, until the husks are charred and some kernels have darkened, 12 to 18 minutes (depending on the freshness of the corn). Transfer the corn to a platter and, when cool enough to handle, remove the charred husks and silk. Serve with flavored butter.

SIMPLE GRILLED POTATOES

Makes about 6 10-inch skewers (4 potatoes on each) or about 4 12-inch skewers ( 5 or 6 potatoes on each); serves 6.

Try to group like-sized potatoes on a skewer so they’ll cook at the same rate.

2        pounds small redskin, Yukon gold, or creamer potatoes, scrubbed and halved

3        tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra for the grill

Salt and pepper

In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave the potatoes on high until just tender, about 5 minutes, tossing gently to redistribute halfway through cooking time. When cool enough to handle, thread potato halves on skewers (skewers parallel to the cut sides and cut sides all facing the same way). Brush the skewered potatoes all over with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high for 15 minutes. (If using gas, adjust the burners to medium-high and grill with the lid closed.) Clean and oil the grill grate and grill the skewers until the potatoes are tender and lightly charred, about 10 minutes, turning 2 or 3 times through grilling time. Transfer the skewers to a platter; when cool enough to handle, slide the potatoes off the skewers and serve with flavored butter.

Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.” Send comments to cooking@globe.com.
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