While training under the watchful eye of Master Chef Zlomke in South Africa, Donna came to learn the benefits of using a richly flavored butter on a pan-seared filet of beef — or, more likely the case in that kitchen, game. The butter melts over and into the filet creating its own “sauce.” Little else is needed to finish a perfectly cooked piece of meat.
It is worth the extra effort to source-out the szechuan and pink peppercorns. The combination of aromatics and concentrated flavor in the reduced liquids creates a complex flavor in the mouth, filling it at once with both a spicy flavor and aromatic fullness that you rarely experience with red meat. The beauty with this recipe is that, despite the extended prep time, once it is made the Madeira butter can be frozen for up to 6 months. Frozen, it is easier to slice and far prettier to serve as it thaws and melts on top of a beautifully cooked filet.
Makes one small butter log
1 14 and ½-ounce can low-salt chicken broth
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns (or use szechuan, if available)
1 tablespoon pink peppercorns
¼ cup Madeira
½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 (scant) tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
Combine the broth and peppercorns in a small saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer about 15 to 20 minutes, until the broth is richly infused with the peppercorns’ essence. Uncover and simmer until mixture is reduced to ¼ cup, about 15 minutes. Add the Madeira ; simmer until mixture is reduced to about 3 tablespoons, about 10 minutes more. Cool.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the peppercorn-Madeira mixture, butter, lemon juice, shallot, thyme, and rosemary. Process until the peppercorns are coarsely chopped and evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
Scrape out the butter mixture onto a sheet of waxed paper, and roughly form into a rope-like log. (You can use your hands — just dip them in cold water. Or use a spatula.)
Roll the waxed paper over the log and continue to roll and shape until the log is about 1” in diameter and about 10 inches long. Twist the ends of the waxed paper and place in the refrigerator until hard, about 2 hours.
Cut a generous pat of butter from the log. Place over beef or chicken just after finished cooking and allow to melt over the meat.
Recipe and photo by Donna Marie Zotter