Around this time a year ago, we were on a North African kick and were using ingredients characteristic of the region in all sorts of dishes, including our Thanksgiving meal. One dish that worked particularly well was roasted yams with a compound butter infused with Moroccan flavors.
Yams with butter melted over them are already pretty darned good, but spiking the butter with extra flavors really elevates them to a new level.
Compound butters are so simple to make, I don't know why we don't do it more often. You basically take room temperature butter and smush a selection of herbs and spices into it. Then chill, and you're done, ready to serve.
For this version I used freshly toasted cumin seeds, fresh garlic, turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, lemon zest, fresh cilantro and salt. The last time I added fresh ginger briefly sautéed in olive oil instead of the fresh garlic. I think I prefer it spiked with the ginger, but both are good. You can use either lemon zest or juice, but the zest is much easier to incorporate into the butter.
A critical element - important for both flavor and that crazy yellow color - is ground turmeric.
We like to form the compound butter into a log shape by wrapping it in plastic and then chilling it several hours in the refrigerator.
Later, sliced into disks it easily adds a burst of complex flavors and aroma to whatever you adorn with it - in this case, hot, tender, roasted jewel yams.
Moroccan-Spiced Compound Butter
2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon minced garlic (or 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger plus 1 teaspoon olive oil)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon fluffy lemon zest (or 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice)
1-2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Toast the cumin seeds in a dry, hot pan until fragrant, about a minute (or if using ginger, toast the cumin seeds in hot olive oil 30 seconds, then add the ginger and saute until fragrant and softened, 1-2 minutes.) Pour into a small bowl and allow to cool. Once the seeds have cooled, mix everything thoroughly into the soft butter. Place onto a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a log by encasing the butter in the plastic and twisting the ends. Refrigerate until firm. Remove plastic wrap and slice into disks for serving.