Winter farmers’ markets are a fun place for food discoveries, and that’s where I met Tracey Brown and John Valdes, owners of Seacoast Butters in Amesbury. They were offering samples of their extensive line of compound butters, plain or spread on warm bread.
Compound (flavored) butter is not a new concept—it’s been used in French cooking forever. It’s great as a spread, of course, but cooks like these butters for what they can bring to a dish. A teaspoon on top of a steak or salmon fillet melts in and adds depth of flavor. Brown (the chef of the team) has obvious culinary talent, as evidenced by creative offerings like Ginger Lime Scallion and Berbere, an Ethiopian-inspired blend that includes Guajillo peppers, smoked paprika, cardamom, and other spices.
Each of the dozen-plus varieties is dense with flavor—a little goes a long way. Brown starts with organic sweet butter and adds just enough sea salt to complement the other ingredients. I love the Roasted Red Pepper, made with freshly roasted red bell peppers. Chipotle Orange has a subtle hot spike, slightly smoky, with a hint of sweetness from orange zest. It’s great melted on popcorn.
On the sweet front, Maple is perfect on pancakes. The Chocolate is incredible—deep, dark, and buttery, it can turn a simple piece of toast into a swoony dessert. Seacoast Butters are $5.75 for a 3-ounce container and are available at Wild Garlic in Amesbury and the Newburyport Winter Market. Check the website for other area stores.