What's Fabulous: Bordier Butter
Bordier Butter, made in the Brittany region of France, is very possibly the best butter in the world. Unfortunately it's made in small batches and sold almost excusively in France. So why even tell you about it?
First, in the event you may be heading to France for a vacation, I would suggest that you seek it out, and buy a package, along with a baguette, and bring it back to your hotel room for a snack. Even better if you've rented an apartment, buy some to cook with. It will be a revelation.
But second, even if you can't get to France to try this full-flavored, dense butter, I think that it's a good thing to be reminded that artisans are out there insisting upon setting exquisitely high standards for ingredients we too easily can be thoughtless about. Like that pound of butter we periodically buy and stick in the freezer for when we need it for some recipe. (How long has it been that we've no longer noticed that it tastes like fatty wax?)
So let me tell you about Bordier.
It's made by Jean Yves Bordier, the son of cheesemakers who dreamed of becoming a sailor, who instead joined his family business in the seaside town of St. Malo. He buys cream from nearby farmers and produces his butter in small lots, finishing each with the added and unconventional step of kneading it. For this he uses a machine with wooden blades that give the butter a dense, almost gummy texture -- different than the waxy finish we know from butters like Land O'Lakes. Even when chilled, Bordier never becomes completely hard, no doubt due to the amount of butterfat.
And the flavor. Oh my. Rich but not unctuous. Unexpectedly complex. Creamy and substantial.
Bordier makes its butter in more then ten flavors, some of which are unexpected but actually inspired for home cooking:
Sweet, semi-salted (what in the U.S. is salted butter), salted 4% (saltier), smoked salt, Espelette (the smoked spicy paprika), garlic with fresh herbs and Szechwan pepper, lemon-olive oil, seaweed, yuzu, raspberry, and sweet Madagascar vanilla. The seaweed is a good choice with fish, the garlic with meats or roasted vegetables, and the raspberry and the vanilla would be wonderful with breakfast foods like pancakes or muffins.
I'm currently on a holiday in Paris, spending much of my time roaming the markets and cooking in my rented apartment's kitchen. Since Espelette is one of my favorite spices for its warm, smoky flavor, I bought Morbier's dark, red Espelette butter and used it one night to give a gloss to tender haricots verts, and another night to make a simple pan sauce for a roasted chicken. Once again I saw how something as ordinary as a bowl of steamed green beans can be extraordinary if the beans are fresh and flavorful and the butter is the best you can find.
Knowing I won't be able to buy Bordier Butter after I get home, it's inspired me to up my game when buying butter, seeking out better ones and adding flavor by taking a cue from monsieur Bordier and kneading in flavor, such as adding my own Espelette or grated lemon rind and garlic.
But if you're heading to Paris, put having bread and Bordier butter on your list of things to do. It will be another way to inspire and educate your palate. You can find Bordier at many better food markets, cheeseshops, and traiteurs, including Vérot charcuterie at 3 Notre Dame des Champs and at La Grande Epicerie at Le Bon Marché, both in the 6th arrondissement. 250 grams costs about 3.50 euros.