crispy prosciutto toast with anchovy lemon butter
This toast is, if I do say so myself, exceptionally tasty—but it’s really an excuse for me to tell you about this anchovy lemon compound butter I can’t stop putting on every single thing. People disturbed by anchovies: hear me out. Minced and rolled into good butter with a bit of lemon, they’re the barely detectable backbone of a multipurpose flavour enhancer you can melt on steak, stir into pasta sauce, toss with roasted vegetables—or as here, spread on toast you top with crispy prosciutto, greens and a runny-yolked egg.
For the unininitated, compound butter is just butter with other stuff mixed in—often, but not necessarily, herbs and spices. This version uses anchovies because they’re an umami powerhouse that round out other flavours (which is why they’re so often used in dressings and pasta sauces). The lemon and garlic go a long way in offsetting any fishiness, which fades into the background anyway when it’s used as a component in your cooking. That said, the recipe is adjustable depending on your tolerance for anchovies.
Compound butter is also something chefs use, which I learned as a 21-year-old stage (the restaurant equivalent of an intern) in my (very) brief career in professional kitchens. Someone shouted “WE NEED COMPOUND BUTTER YESTERDAY” at me in the middle of service; I had tasted this restaurant’s signature version exactly once and had never been shown how to make it. Everyone was, of course, too busy for questions.
With the urgency of an Olympic sprinter on fire, I zipped into the walk-in, grabbed more or less random herbs, and finagled some Frankensteinian butter in a blur of panic and sweat (appetizing, I know). Sheepishly, I sidled up to the line with it to await judgement. The chef tasted it, added a fistful of salt—I was innocent of restaurant salting habits at the time—said “pretty okay,” and served it on steak. I took the win, but logged the incident as one of a thousand reasons I’m not gritty enough for restaurant work.
Fortunately, it works just as well in a home kitchen as it does a professional one. Arguably better when you subtract the panic and sweat. Any good compound butter is a flavour workhorse that, once made, sets you up for at a week of good eating. Add it anywhere a bit of umami and brightness would be a welcome touch, or just keep putting it on toast and finding new things to pile onto it. Here is a non-exhaustive list of things this particular one is perfect for:
- stirred into rice you’ll top with an egg and something green
- melted into pasta sauce before serving, or used at the beginning to saute your aromatics
- added to roasted vegetables (root veg, fennel or broccoli would work particularly well) just before serving
- melted on top of steak
- stirred into a pot of beans after cooking
- melted over roasted or boiled potatoes
Also, if you didn’t know how easy it is to turn thin strips of prosicutto into shaterringly crisp sheets of happiness, now you know. Two multipurpose techniques for the price of one recipe, people—this is how we become more efficient cooks.
crispy prosciutto toast with anchovy lemon butter
anchovy lemon compound butter
anchovy fillets, minced 8-12* (see note)
good unsalted butter, softened about 1/2 cup or 113g
lemon juice 1 teaspoon
zest of one lemon
garlic, minced 2 cloves
*Use 8 anchovies if you’re not into them, and 12 if you don’t mind a slightly more pronounced anchovy flavour. If the former, you can also add more lemon zest or juice.
the toast (or open-faced sandwich)
sourdough bread, or another bread you like 2 slices, toasted
prosciutto 4 slices
Boston lettuce, watercress, or another green you have around a handful
olive or canola oil 1 teaspoon
anchovy lemon compound butter (above) 2 tablespoons
make the compound butter
Cut the butter into dice-sized cubes. Ideally, you would have left it out at room temperature for about 45 minutes to soften. If you forgot, pour some boiling water in a big cup or bowl, pour it out, and use the bowl to cover your cubed butter for a few minutes. It should emerge soft and ready to use.
Mix the remaining ingredients with the butter in a bowl till it’s all well-combined. It’s easiest to use a fork. Shape it into a rough cylinder, roll in parchment paper, and stick it in the fridge for later use. Set aside a couple of tablespoons if you plan on making the prosciutto toast.
crisp the prosciutto
Lay the prosciutto slices out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Don’t let them touch. Put them in a preheated 375F oven for 8-10 minutes, keeping an eye on them towards the end. You’re looking for darkened meat, but no burning.
Take the prosciutto out and set it aside—it will continue to crisp as it cools.
assemble the sandwich
Heat the oil in a small skillet for a few minutes, till the oil shimmers. Crack the eggs in and cook for two to three minutes for a runny yolk, or to your desired doneness. Finish with pepper, but salt very lightly–the prosciutto and anchovies bring plenty of their own.
You don’t need me to tell you how to butter your toast, so spread however much compound butter you like on the bread while it’s hot. I use up to a tablespoon per slice.
Alternate layers of crispy prosciutto and lettuce. Top with an egg and serve right away.
Rolled up in parchment paper, the compound butter will keep for at least a week, but eat the sandwich right away.