It’s hard to beat all the sensory pleasure of a hot cob of corn slathered in soft butter, and compound butter is an easy and unexpected way to add some variations to the theme. This smoked tomato butter is bright, rich, and full of umami. It’s important that most of the water be cooked out of the tomatoes, so this process combines smoking, which only takes 25 minutes and saturates the fruit with smoky flavor, and slow roasting, which is where it concentrates and much of the liquid cooks off. I’ve included a few options for smoking below, but you can also hack a stovetop smoker using a Dutch oven. Alternatively, skip the smoking part, and make this a slow-roasted tomato butter instead, and it’ll be equally delicious. While you’re making the effort of smoking the tomatoes, you can make a big batch—this recipe only needs about a scant half cup of smoked tomatoes, and leftovers are great for snacking or as an inspired addition to all manner of vinaigrettes, grain bowls, as toppings for soft cheese, and much more.
As an alternative to slathering it all over corn served on the cob, slice the kernels off the raw cobs and quickly sauté them in a splash of oil or butter, then stir a pat of compound butter into the warm dish. Think of it as a more date-friendly serving method—less risk of getting corn stuck in your teeth.
- Using a stovetop smoker: Arrange the tomatoes on the accompanying cooking tray, cut side up, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Prepare the smoker according to manufacturer instructions, and once smoking, add the tomatoes to the vessel and smoke them for 25 minutes. They’ll still be quite juicy, but they will have absorbed plenty of smoky flavor.
- Using an outdoor electric pellet smoker: Preheat the smoker on its lowest heat setting. Arrange the tomatoes on an aluminum sheet pan (or make one from a few layers of tinfoil), cut side up, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Once the smoker is preheated and smoke has appeared, add the tomatoes and smoke for 25 minutes. (With a pellet smoker grill such as a Traeger, you can cook the tomatoes entirely on the smoker, rather than transferring them to the oven. Set the temperature to about 280°F, and cook until the tomatoes are significantly dried out—cherry tomatoes will take an additional 40–60 minutes, and larger ones will take up to 2 hours.)
- Using a gas or charcoal grill: Soak wood chips for at least 30 minutes. Arrange the tomatoes on an aluminum sheet pan (or make one from a few layers of tinfoil), cut side up, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Preheat the grill to high. Place the soaked woodchips in a smoking box or aluminum foil parcel near the heat source or over hot coals. Lower the heat, close the lid, and watch for smoke to appear. Then add the tomatoes, smoking them with the lid closed over indirect heat for 25 minutes, until glistening and saturated with smoke flavor.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 280°F. Transfer the smoked tomatoes to the oven and slow roast them until most of the moisture has cooked off and the tomatoes are significantly reduced—cherry tomatoes will take 45 minutes to an hour, and larger ones will take up to 2 hours. (If you’re skipping the smoking step, you’ll start with this step, arranging the halved tomatoes on a baking sheet and coating them with salt and olive oil, and you will need to roast the tomatoes in the oven for an extra 20–30 minutes.) Cool before proceeding with the smoked tomato butter.
- Place the tomatoes in a food processor and pulse 8–10 times to coarsely chop them up. Add the softened butter, lemon zest, and several grinds of black pepper, and pulse 8–10 times more to combine. (Alternatively, mince the smoked tomatoes by hand, then fold them into softened butter using a rubber spatula.) Taste for seasonings—adding extra salt if you’re using unsalted butter. Scoop the mixture onto a sheet of parchment paper, then roll it into a log, twisting the ends to seal it, like a Tootsie Roll. Chill for at least an hour to firm up, or keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. Slice into thick coins to pass at the table, for slathering over hot ears of corn.
Lukas Volger is a cookbook author and editor. He co-founded Jarry, an award-winning queer food journal, and his most recent book is Start Simple. For more information, visit lukasvolger.com or @lukasvolger on Instagram.