Before I moved to Japan, miso paste was an ingredient I rarely used. Now I must have it in my fridge at all times, and I am constantly finding new ways to utilize its delicious umami powers. My new favorite miso incarnation: miso butter. I know I am really late to this culinary party; miso butter was in all my cooking magazines a couple years ago, but since I rarely grilled, I didn’t know what else it could be used for. If you too are not already on the miso butter train, hopefully this will inspire you to take a ride.
Total cook time is probably less than five minutes, and the prepared miso butter will last basically forever in the fridge. What you need:
Miso paste: yellow or white miso lends a sweeter flavor, I haven’t tried using the red miso so I can’t attest to the difference
Butter: Real, unsalted butter. No margarine! Unsalted is important too, since the miso paste is naturally salty
Brown sugar: light or dark, either is fine
Mirin: this is a slightly sweet Japanese cooking wine, similar to sake. If you can’t find mirin, feel free to use rice wine vinegar, sherry, sake, or white wine vinegar. Anything light with acidity
The basic proportions are 1:1 on the butter and the miso, so if you want 1/4 cup of miso butter, use two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of miso. Then add one tablespoon each of the mirin and brown sugar. You can add more or less to taste, depending on how sweet you want it. The mirin will add sweetness and also give the consistency a smoother texture. The miso butter when warm should be soft and spreadable, similar to melted caramel. Here’s the cooking process:
Melt your desired amount of butter on low in a small saucepan. You can also microwave the butter quickly until it’s soft, I just don’t have a microwave so I do it on the stove.
Once it’s soft, add the same amount of miso paste. Whisk to combine, and if you are using the stovetop, take the pan off while you combine. You don’t want to heat the miso too much, boiling will hurt the miso’s flavor and texture.
Once the two are integrated, the sauce will look a little clumpy, but this is okay. Add your brown sugar and mirin and whisk to combine. Now the sauce should look and feel like caramel. Pour into a bowl if you are using immediately, or pour into tupperware and store in the fridge.
In the fridge, the butter will firm back up to a more solid form, If you want to use it for brushing on vegetables, just pop in the microwave for a second or dip the bottom of the tupperware in hot water for a minute.
Now what can you do with your miso butter? Its most popular use seems to be a marinade for grilled vegetables. Simply brush the butter on mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, bell pepper, onions, etc. and set over the flame. Since I find grilling inconvenient most nights, I brush it on my veggies like asparagus, and roast them in the oven. I also use it straight from the fridge as a condiment for corn on the cob or steamed green beans. You can also use it on meats and fish. Brush on before grilling, brush on after cooking like a glaze, or use it during cooking to add flavor and moisture. I like to wrap my salmon fillets in foil and cook them in the oven. I add a little liquid (white wine, lemon juice, chicken broth or a little vinegar) to keep them moist, and I put a small dollop of the miso butter on top before closing up the foil packet. If you enjoy baked acorn squash, you can put the miso butter in the hollowed out center while it bakes, instead of the traditional butter and brown sugar.
Once you taste how delicious it is, you may just want to slather it on your morning toast! The uses are vast; think of any savory dish you make with butter and see if you can substitute the miso for a new flavor twist. Use it to make quick appetizers: brush it on warm French bread, top with avocado and a drizzle of olive oil, or chili oil for spice. If you discover a new great way to use miso butter, be sure to let me know so I can try it too!