This $3 Tool Upgrades My Thanksgiving Meal Every Year
As a general rule, I'm a person who likes to cut corners in the kitchen. I eyeball my measurements, misread the recipe and have a tendency to just throw ingredients into the pot and see what happens. The only trouble with that philosophy is that when it comes to days when food can't just be thrown together at the last minute, I have to start planning well in advance—which is why I'm already thinking about this year's Thanksgiving menu.
Some things are set in stone, like my great-grandmother's dressing recipe and my mom's slow-cooker green beans. (We have a few slow-cooker Thanksgiving side recipes you might want to get your hands on this year.) And there's one other tried and true Thanksgiving addition I just can't take off the menu: compound butter.
It isn't just that compound butter levels up your dinner rolls—though it definitely does—it's that compound butter can actually be decorative if you're willing to put in just a smidge of extra effort.
I usually make three kinds of compound butter for the biggest feast of the season, and I mold all of them using seasonal candy molds, like this adorable Maple Leaf Chocolate Mold (buy it: $3, Etsy) or this Pumpkin Candy Mold ($2.50, Etsy). After freezing the butter in the molds for around 20 or 30 minutes, you can pop them into a bag and toss them right back into the freezer until the big day—which means you could even make them a week in advance if you want.
The process is simple. Bring a stick of unsalted butter to room temperature—you don't want to fully melt the butter, since that will make it harder to get out of the mold. Then season it to taste with the kind of ingredients your family loves. My go-tos are maple syrup, cooked and crumbled bacon and a pinch of salt for a delish maple-bacon butter or a couple of cloves of both roasted and raw garlic with salt, black pepper and a pinch of freshly grated Parmesan for something more savory. Sweet butters are delicious on rolls or roasted sweet potatoes while more savory butters can be used with bread, cooked veggies or mashed potatoes.
Once you've mixed your add-ins into the butter, you can start filling the molds, smoothing the backs with a spoon as you go. Pop them into the freezer to set, and once they're solid, you can put a little pressure on the molds with your thumbs to pop them out. Bag them up by flavor, toss them back into the freezer, and your perfectly portioned butters can hang out there until it's showtime. If you move them to the refrigerator while watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade, they'll be soft enough to enjoy by dinner.
Buy it: Maple Leaf Chocolate Mold, $3; etsy.com
And there are plenty of cheap, festive molds to choose from, like this mixed set of pumpkins and leaves (buy it: $13, Amazon). Or, if you want to go all in on fall foliage, this mix of leaf shapes (buy it: $7, Amazon) would be a great addition to the table.
Trust me, when you serve up a little bowl of what looks like designer butter next to the rolls, everyone at the table will think it took way more effort than it actually did. This task is so mindless, you could even watch the new season of The Great British Baking Show as you go.