I first had goat butter at Bar Tartine a few years ago, where it was served as an appetizer with radishes and salt and a very nice glass of sparkling rose. Swoon.
I was smitten and wanted to know more, but I'm easily distracted and forgetful so it's taken me this long to finally bring home a 1/4 pound stick from the grocery store. After an quick run through the basics (on bread, with radishes, in a gratin and sautéed with spinach ala Amanda Hesser) I have to say it's my new love. Sigh.
Goat butter differs in many ways from cow's butter: it's color is a creamy white, it's texture and mouthfeel are a little oilier, and it tastes subtly but distinctly of, well, goat. It has a lower melting point, so it's quicker to liquefy and brown over a flame. (I found that the browning obscured some of that unique goaty-ness,)
Because it's more time consuming to produce, goat butter is expensive, at least $12 a pound, often more. So I knew I wanted to use it in ways that highlighted, rather than obscured, it's unique, subtle flavor.
Straight up. On a slice of good bread or toast. Simple, straightforward, one of my favorites. A few sprinkles of Maldon salt and a little chopped parsley brought it up a few notches, but remember: goat cheese often comes salted so taste first before adding salt. Garnish with a nasturtium blossom and you have an elegant nibble to serve with drinks or a nice glass of minerally white wine.
On the side. With radishes. My sentimental favorite, as first times often are. An excellent way to show off your early radish harvest but be careful--if the radishes are too strong, they can overpower the butter. A little salt on the side is helpful here, too.
In a recipe. I made a simple, classic gratin with potatoes and milk that had been simmered with a slivered garlic clove. A little pepper, no salt, Instead of cheese, I dotted the goat butter over the top. Rich and delicious, the goat butter added a deep, almost cheesy note. Next time, I may add a few sauteed wild mushrooms.
Alchemical. Amanda Hesser recommends sautéing spinach in goat butter in her 2000 NYT article A Creamy Butter, and No Cow. For this trial, I used just two ingredients: fresh spinach and a tablespoon of goat butter. Here, the goat flavor disappears and melds with the spinach to become something uniquely sublime. The butter tames the bright green mineral of the spinach, which has become soft and wilted. Green velvet.
There seems to be two brands that are somewhat widely available: Meyenberg from California and Mt. Sterling from my home state of Wisconsin which was the brand I used for this article. The Find also has a large mail order selection, including goat butter from France and Montreal.
Oh, and as an added bonus, goat's milk seems to be a great substitute for many people who can't handle cow's milk.
(Images: Dana Velden)