Our tiny yard continues to grow surprises for me. Today as I was weeding out in the Seattle sunshine I identified a previously ignored plant as lemon balm, an herb that looks like mint with fat leaves and has an unmistakably lemony flavor, sort of like lemen verbena. I made lemon balm butter by mixing 1/4 cup of finely chopped lemon balm with a stick of softened unsalted butter along with the zest and juice of a lemon and a little salt and pepper, and used it two ways:
I rubbed 1/4 cup of the lemon balm butter under the skin of a 4-pound chicken, which I roasted at 450 for about 30 minutes and then at 400 for another 40 more. The chicken was delicious and moist, thank you butter, and I loved how roasting it in a cast iron pan gathered the juices up so I could saute chopped potatoes in the leftover chicken fat. But unfortunately, there was no real lemon balm flavor to speak of.
Then I dotted a little of the butter onto freshly steamed asparagus, with just the result I’d hoped for: an herbal and intensely lemony flavor with each bite of asparagus.
Give it a try, if you have any lemon balm (or run into it somewhere; I’ve seen it at the Ballard farmers’ market), or with mint, basil, lemon verbena, or any other soft, green herb.