Trish Deseine has hopped on this new online food trend and she is making it her own. Deliciously messy, we think this spreadable snack will stick around.
We have come a long way since the liquid nitrogen-fuelled beginnings of regressive molecular gastronomy. Do you remember the world in which Chicago chef Grant Achatz staged spectacular tabletop dessert finales at his restaurant Alinea? Chocolate piñatas, full of chemically smoking candyfloss, popcorn and pretzels were smashed directly on to diners’ tables, to be playfully spooned up by the rapt guests, paying fully grown-up prices for their childish fun. I didn’t have the pleasure of trying that particular experience, but did make it to Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck in its heyday, where dinner felt like being part of some strange, ultra choreographed, performance-art kids’ party, with a going-home present from heaven thrown in. Since then, life and food have become infinitely more serious. An overpowering earnestness has crept in as we, quite rightly, become more aware of broader ecological and geopolitical issues around what’s on our plates and how we eat it all. Thankfully, when that moral jungle becomes impenetrable, we can always count on the crazily deregulated online food world to let us zigzag on and off the right path du moment. Another month and another viral food sharing trend has swamped my reciperich Instagram feed – butter boards. Yes, that’s right. Butter. On boards. And this time, I am paying attention. Given my longstanding love affair with butter’s golden loveliness, it’s hardly surprising that the mind-mining algorithm is pelting my eyes with swoonful butterboard images. Silky folds of softened butter are spread over a wooden board with a large knife or the back of a spoon, like cake frosting, creating gentle, undulating hills and valleys which would put the Clew Bay drumlins to shame.
They are drizzled, scattered, spiked and studded with anything from herbs, flower petals, fresh fruit, crudités, and charcuterie to fancy salts and peppers, all just pitched right on there, no tweezers required. Then, you simply dip in with bread or crackers to create your own magic bite. The instigator of the trend, New York-based recipe developer Justine Doiron, credits cookbook author Joshua McFadden with the original idea from his 2017 book, Six Seasons, A New Way With Vegetables. When only a few months ago we were fiercely keeping our distance and desanitising our cutlery after every mouthful, you can’t help thinking that this trend is emerging now as a Covid backlash and general Distraction from Everything. Teetering deliciously on the edge of vulgarity, it’s a messy proposition. The butter-to-topping ration can be hard to balance – both in terms of taste and your arteries – and I am all for a cream cheese substitute to lower the fat content just a little, and add some sharpness. But the inclusive, freestyle, cheapfix, anything-goes appeal might be just what we need, as nights draw in and we are lacking in energy, not just to heat our homes and slow roast the lamb shoulder, but also for gathering friends and family. In short, it is the entertaining equivalent of Dancing with the Stars on the sofa versus The Nutcracker at Opéra Garnier.
Life and food have become more serious. An overpowering earnestness has crept in…
But if butter boards feel like too much too soon, a sort of double-dipping game of jeopardy, you could always lean into the dynamic, caring-sharing vibe by leaving the food in dishes and dusting off or shopping for a good old Lazy Susan as the centrepiece for your next dinner party table. Lazy Susans, made ubiquitous by Chinese restaurants, have in fact been around since the 1700s, when they were invented as a way of cutting down on human waiting staff. You might not find a spectacular, silverplated version complete with a warming tray and little stands for salt and pepper such as I recently spotted at auction, but there are some very pretty ones made in beautiful wood which will liven up your winter feasts to share. So snuggle up and give it a spin! @trishdeseine @trishdeseineencore
TRISH’S BUTTERBOARD COMBINATIONS
1. Unsalted + sea salt + nori sprinkles + pickled ginger with shucked oysters.
2. Salted + fresh red onion + cranberries + grated cheddar + crispy
onion with warm seeded sourdough.
3. Unsalted + caramelised garlic + gomasio (sesame salt) + grated apple
with roasted cauliflower.
4. Unsalted + sea salt + cracked black pepper + grated lemon zest + cayenne
pepper with radishes or other crudités.