Thanksgiving, a holiday inspired by traditional fall harvest festivals in Europe, is one of the top two food holidays in the US. According to a YouGov poll in 2020, the most popular Thanksgiving dishes in the United States included turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, dressing, bread, and rolls. This year home cooks can make their traditional Thanksgiving feast even more delicious by upgrading staple ingredients such as butter.
Chef Jamie Simpson, Executive Chef Liaison at The Culinary Vegetable Institute, says “Butter has a few leading roles for thanksgiving, but it’s really on stage throughout the entire performance. From the dinner rolls at the opening scene to the pie crust at the finale, butter is there to enhance the show every step of the way. Generally speaking, commercially available butter is better when it’s from Europe. It’s more buttery, it’s denser, and it’s more memorable than the commodity butter made here in the U.S. When you’re checking off your shopping list this season, don’t cut corners – go European with your butter. The mashed potatoes will thank you!”
According to Charles Duque, Managing Director, Americas for the French Dairy Board, “Using French butter is one way to make a Thanksgiving meal better than ever.” He adds, “French butter has a higher fat than American butter or locally produced butter because it is churned longer to reach at least 82% fat content– and those two percentage points make a big difference.”
We turned to a couple of our top sources, Jolene Kesler of Simple Cooking with Pep and Chef Rick Rodgers, to learn a few simple ways French butter can improve your favorite Thanksgiving dishes. Jolene regularly shares delicious recipe content and inspiration with an audience of over 18,000 on her blog and social media. Chef Rodgers is the author of many books on holiday cooking, including Thanksgiving 101 and Christmas 101. He currently teaches baking classes at Coffee and Cake with Rick Rodgers.
|What’s Thanksgiving without fresh, homemade bread? And what’s bread without butter? “Nothing elevates fresh bread like French butter made with cream from cows who graze on grass and herbs to give it a distinctive flavor.”, says Rodgers. “Since I buy unsalted French butter for my baking, I will sprinkle a bit of flaky sea salt over the butter in the butter dish.” French butter is available in salted, unsalted and flavored varieties so you can dial up the flavor of those green beans, corn or spuds.An alternative to the trendy butter board is to create butter spreads for your rolls or bread. Jolene says, “If you have a sweet tooth like me, adding brown sugar and a dash of cinnamon to softened French butter is an excellent combination. However, if you’re more into savory notes, try mixing softened French butter with fresh herbs like sage and thyme, or add some cranberry relish. Regardless of which combination you choose the richness French butter provides will wow your guests!”|
Turkey is the de rigueur main dish, and Rodgers recommends basting it with butter. Rodgers advises, “Mash 4 to 8 ounces of softened French butter with 2 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs (such as sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and parsley) seasoned well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roll into a log with waxed paper and freeze an hour or so until firm. Slip your fingers under the turkey skin to loosen it from the breast and thighs. Cut the firm herb butter into thin disks and slip them under the loosened skin.”
According to Rodgers, “As the turkey roasts, it will take on a wonderful flavor, aroma, and color from the melting butter, and the drippings will be beautifully seasoned, too.” The amount of butter you need depends on the size of your bird.
Green bean casserole may be a traditional side of choice, but it’s heavy. Rodgers suggests balancing your menu with a simpler side dish that features clean, fresh flavors. The key? French butter.
Says Rodgers, “French butter has such a rich taste that heightens the easiest side dish.” He shares his recipe for green beans with toasted hazelnuts for an elegant but fresh take on traditional green beans. “Blanch green beans (preferably thin French-style haricots verts) until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes; drain, rinse, and pat dry. Melt two tablespoons of French butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the green beans and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Add another tablespoon of French butter and two tablespoons of water and shake the skillet until the additional butter melts with the water and forms a light sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with toasted, skinned, and sliced almonds and serve.”
Sometimes a side dish can take center stage, especially for vegetarians. Says Jolene, “My favorite thing to make is mac-and-cheese featuring a Bechamel sauce. Bechamel sauce includes flour, milk, and butter. This dish depends entirely on the sauce, so the creamy notes in the French butter truly elevate the flavor. It’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser for adults and children.”
Regardless of the main dish, stuffing or dressing is a must. According to Jolene, if you buy pre-made sides, like stuffing, you can personalize them and make them unique with French butter. “Melt French butter with a mixture of salt, pepper, and various fresh herbs, like rosemary, thyme, and sage. Drizzle over the stuffing before serving for an elevated experience, ” advises Jolene.
Looking for ways to use French butter in your recipes? Head to TasteEurope | ButterofFrance on both Facebook and Instagram. These are filled with recipes, tips and more information than you could possibly need, all about the butters of Europe.